English 3 AP
A Mother’s Daughter
I smelled different. I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs, I attended Chinese School for ten years, and my favorite meal consisted of a warm barbecue flavored pork atop a bowl of white rice.
Still, I loved the fireworks on the Fourth of July. Still, I would swim in the public pool and eat blue popsicles in the summer. At home, my mother would speak Cantonese to me and I would respond in English. As an American-born girl of twelve in a predominately white town, we had a system. In public, I was the mother—checking out our library books, reading the labels on the packages of ground pork and beef in the supermarket. I was the one who taught my mother how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was the one who taught her how to send a text. We fell into a familiar rhythm. Eventually, she stopped trying to take control; “You’re the expert,” she would say, “Let me learn from you.”
At some point along the way, I lost my Chinese.
Cantonese, my first language, gradually became a memory. Born to first-generation immigrants who returned to Hong Kong when I was three, I entered kindergarten with a limited knowledge of English. Each day, the five-year old and the 37-year old would sit at the table reading rudimentary alphabet books: B IS FOR BANANA, C IS FOR CAT.
At home, the rules were softened. As a child, I would convince my mother to buy “white people” food: chicken nuggets drenched in ketchup, boxes of Lucky Charms, fluffy mashed potatoes covered in warm, brown gravy. I reprimanded my mother for buying frilly socks because all the white girls at school were wearing sleek ankle socks. My mother dragged me to Target to buy a 24-pack of socks the next day. Whenever I was mad, I would call her an imbecile because I knew she didn’t know what it...