My mother looked really small as she walked into a security line at the airport.
She has always been small in figure I suppose, but it had never struck me in such a distinguishing way. All past images I have of her was walking by her side on numerous streets in that small town in Hubei, China, as I grew up. She seemed so big to me in my early life, and in my later life when there appeared bigger figures around me she never appeared any more, so I never got a chance to compare the bigness.
She turned toward me and waved goodbye. This marks the end of her 2-month stay with me, just the two of us, after more than a decade of separation.
It started with possibly a lure in the mirages of mother-daughter bonding, and materialized into something like most of my adult experiences, a mixture of everything, joy and awkwardness, warmth and inconvenience. But worst of all in the mixture, guilt. The guilt of enjoying me-time by deliberately staying late at work. The guilt of all the acts of impatience, annoyance and negligence after “a long tiring day”. The guilt of often feeling irritated about how different we are and tired of trying to make a connection. The guilt of viewing this time as a “challenge” for, no other but, me. The guilt of this piercing relief after finally sending her off.
It is just delicate timing that a mass shooting happened one day before she leaves the States. Never had China seemed a million times safer.
She said to me, don’t you ever go into a big crowd. I was again irritated. That’s not what I think of! I think of politics, lives lost, violence, justice, people’s greater good, all those grandiose things. How can you be so narrow-minded? So I said no, I can’t. If I care to change any bit of my life because of what they did then they win.
Once again I made things worse. I left her worried deeper, I left her speechless. I made her feel she’s thousands of miles away from me, both physically and mentally. And once again, the guilt. Why am I such a pretentious brat?
I don’t know why I said that. Yes, that’s probably truly what I believe but there is no need, none, to speak it out like this to my mother, the person, probably the only person that concerns nothing in the world but my life.
It is more true than ever that we are wildly different people now. She has many things in her that I tried to escape for many years. I always thought the difference started when we separated and I started living out in America. But no. Even for those years when we were so close together in time and space, come to think of it, we were living totally different lives.
Mine was to figure out the world, me, meanings, people.
Hers was to make sure I live, and have all those.