Life, Simple & Complex

Wall Between Pink and Blue

When I was younger, there were many things I couldn’t do. Ride a bike, play basketball, wear a t-shirt and jeans. But this was not because I had the inability to do it, it was because I can’t do it. Boys can ride bikes, girls should not risk scraping their knees. Boys can play basketball, girls should do something more girly. Boys can wear jeans, girls should wear dresses. What prevented me in doing what I wanted was what I should be doing, while the boys can do anything and be anything.


All my life I’ve lived in homes within the same 3 square miles. All within a small community full of homes, businesses, and people like me. Or that’s what I’ve been told. Everything else is different, not trustworthy. You are safe with us. My parents always reiterated. I went to schools with predominantly people of the same cultures as me. It was all I knew for a while. Child me didn’t know any different, but with growing up comes exploring. Everyday that I live, the more I learn. I step outside of that radius on a daily now. Surrounded by difference and variety, I can still sense the tether that constantly reminds me to stay close, whispering the echoes of the two that care for me the most in this world. But I want to cut it. I want to rip it out and run off. Explore more. See more. And someday that will happen. But for today, I will go as far as that tether reaches. I promise though, when the time is right, I will rip it out, go as far as life will let me, but never forget the two people at the other end of that line. For it is not the tether that I care about, it is the people at the other end.


It’s odd being both the youngest and only daughter in the family.  As the youngest, we’re meant to be cherished and spoiled, forever being told you are the baby. As the only daughter and in result the oldest, all the burdens fall on you. Having only one other sibling, it is one or the other and in this life time, it is me. It is me that gets to hear the family secrets, to learn the necessary things to keep the clan going. It is up to me to care for the family members I have never met or known very well when they are in trouble. It is up to me to maintain the family status for however long I live. It is up to me to keep family relations civil and to repair all the cracks of that appear. For now, it is a trial period. For now, I get to have guidance and help. But I know it will not last. Time will pass and so will the people who bestowed this responsibility unto me. And my brother? He is unburdened by this decision but will forever know that I am the baby. I am spoiled and cherished and given all of these things I never asked for. Both of us knowing the conflict of our gender and our order of birth will follow us and confuse and disrupt the natural consensus about siblings. 

On You

I sit in the kitchen at 5 am trying to absorb everything I can. The way my mom’s hands would move as she is delicately washing the herbs, shaking off the water, ripping the leaves off the stem, and soaking them in cold frigid water before shaking it out again. I listen intently to the sound of the water in the pot, any second, the pork belly boiling inside it would be done. I can smell all of the aromas wafting from the mortar as the spices are expertly ground. Someday, this would be on you, my mother reminds me. Watch closely. I look and listen and hear and smell and I still can’t grasp the efficiency that my mom has. I think about how when my mom’s hands get all wrinkly, her movements more shaky and halting, that breakfast will be on me. 

It is the life of a daughter. It is my destiny to step up and do the things mom no longer can. I have to learn it all now, so I can be useful earlier. One quick run through and I am a master at it. I have to be. The work will be my responsibility.  I am the daughter. It is on me. It has to be. On me.

Ông Nội?

I hear many things about him. My dad’s dad. He was an honorable man. He was a poor farmer with 9 kids that struggled and scraped by to survive. He served in the Vietnam War and gave my dad and his siblings a chance to move to America. When they immigrated, it was no different. He made a living by collecting recyclables for money to make sure that his kids had a future. He took care of his wife who became blind from an illness and was a dutiful husband and father. But I never knew him. He passed before my older brother was born. I know that he was a good husband and father, but would he be a good grandpa? Would he have been as good to the kin that never got to meet him as he was to the kids who relied on him for survival? I know the basics of what my grandfather was but I never got to know who he was. I know his story but I don’t know him. No one ever talks about him and what he was like. People who knew him were to sad to speak of him and said, “the past is in the past”. I concluded that he was an honorable man because of his deeds, but is it really the real him? The mystery of grandpa is great. So since I didn’t really know him, can I still call him ông nội?

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