Those are my mom’s hands.
Those hands lifted hundreds of boxes of tobacco, candy, cases of pop and cooked thousands of meals to get this family to where it is today.
My mom and I went out last week to buy a few presents for an upcoming “Ddol”–it’s a huge party for a Korean baby’s first birthday to celebrate good health (back in the day during the wars, making it to a year was a huge feat). We were in the car and my mom pulled out the cute little dress that she had picked out for the baby. She looked at it, smiled and then turned to me with so much sadness in her eyes. This is what she said (translated into english):
“You never got to wear nice things as a baby. I always wanted to buy you guys nice clothes and saw it in the stores, but could never buy it. We saved every penny. You, your sister, your cousins.. you all wore the exact same clothes because we couldn’t afford the pretty dresses. I always looked at them and felt so sad my kids couldn’t wear those nice things. One time when you were just born, your dad was downtown in a meeting, your grandparents were busy so no one could look after you. This was soon after I gave birth and I had to work at our store right away. We couldn’t afford help so I brought you with me. I put you in an empty tobacco box right by the counter so i could watch you and look after customers. That’s when my heart was the saddest… (keu-dae neun oma-gah ma-eum chae-il seul-puh-soh in konglish for those of you who understand korean) When you needed a diaper change I couldn’t do it right away and you had to wait because we couldn’t afford to have help…My heart hurt the most at that moment seeing you in that box… Not being able to provide for you guys, having to leave you there, not being able to change you because people were in the store… we just had no money. I’m really sorry and when you guys have babies, we’ll buy them the nice things we could never buy you… “
If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you may be wondering why I write so much about my family (my grandma’s struggles, being a 2nd gen immigrant kid etc…). Well friends, I don’t have a very good answer. Why I chose to write this today is because of a conversation I had with one of my closest friends yesterday. The way our business is currently going, I feel so ashamed and hurt that I can’t give back to my parents for everything they sacrificed so I could get a good education. My parents have always been very supportive no matter what I’ve been up to. They’ve even said they’ll help me financially while I’m still living with them-this made me so so upset and doubled the feeling of failure. My friend (thanks nar) did a reality slap-in-the-face check and said “Listen, if you’re fortunate enough that your parents will help you. Then do them a favour and work hard. Work hard so their sacrifice is worth it” (I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that was the jist of the convo).
I never realized how hard my mom had it until I started interviewing A LOT of moms for our company. Their hardships as Canadians were enough to scare me from having kids, but then I thought about immigrant parents and how much harder it must be for them without the language, support network in Canada or the finances to support their kids. I thought back to that conversation I had with my mom in the car and it just broke my heart. Every mother wants the best for their child and I can’t even imagine how hard my mom was on herself. The thing is, we didn’t need the nice clothes or fancy outfits…
Immigrant kids can all probably relate to this, our parents worked really hard. My mom once told me “do you know how many packs of gum I have to sell to buy that?”
Without a strong command of the english language, she did pretty damn well for herself. Most immigrant kids can relate to this so in conclusion: We have no excuse not to succeed. Laziness is such an awful trait to have and furthermore so disrespectful to what our parents put in.
Be motivated and choose to be great.