Did I mention that I am on my way to Dallas on business? I think I did. I am going to attend a meeting. Then I will sleep (and watch Game 7) and fly back home in the morning. This is almost as short a trip as the time many years ago, when I started my “traveling for work” career, when I went to Dallas, arrived at the Four Seasons
and checked in, went to dinner at Mi Piacci, and then flew home the next morning due to an impending ice storm. That was sort of like all the tales you hear about being flown to Paris for lunch by some rich suitor who owns his own plane. Only in this case, it was for business, I flew with my boss, and it was on American Airlines. Coach seat. I had not racked up enough mileage to fly first class yet.
When I was younger I thought I would be a writer. I read voraciously. Ten books at once. Literally, TEN BOOKS AT ONCE
. I went to the library EVERY
weekend and checked out about 15-20 books at a time – thank goodness there was no limit. I didn't read them all in one week but at any given time, I would overlap anywhere from 4-5 books at a time. I know it sounds really nuts but it worked and I was never late returning a book. Anyway, I imagined myself following in the footsteps all those writers when I got older. It didn’t matter whether I was famous or rich. It only mattered that I would write the Great American Novel one day. Never mind that I wasn’t
American. Not really – not even first generation
- but an IMMIGRANT
– even though I immigrated when I was really young.
My Great American Novel would be fiction, of course. And it would be about some young disenfranchised woman who fought her roots to fulfill her dreams. Those dreams varied from achieving contentment through an ordinary life, to revenge on those who rejected her before she was rich and famous – revenge by living well and having much sucess in life. During my bleaker periods of life, I imagined it would be a story about that same woman who had everything, lost the whole point of pursuing dreams and achieving them, to lose her success through short-sightedness, only to realize on her deathbed that she had lost all that she had fought to gain. Yes, it’s all over the place. Sort of how my mind works – disjointed and all over the place.
When I was younger, I was so involved in my future as a writer that I would fall asleep every single night to The Story
. I would act out the narrations and speak out loud the various character voices until I fell asleep. The next night, I would rewind just a bit, and pick up where I left off. This would continue until The Story was complete – written in my mind, read out loud, acted out – sort of like a Movie of the Week in fast forward. I would do this every single night. Sometimes the stories would last a week. Others would last almost a year. It depended on whether it was a vignette, a novel, or an epic. And if it was an epic, I might have a couple of them going at once. You would think that I would write them down. I didn’t. Except for the one story I wrote in 9th grade that won the class award. The English teacher, who didn’t like me much, looked at me differently after that. My classmates, the Gifted and Talented, who read my 50-page story looked at me as if I had a talent, rather than a loner who never quite fit in, only melted into the background, and who wasn’t quite Gifted and Talented enough.
Needless to say, I didn’t become a writer. I don’t think I could have ever become one. There is too much detail to pick through and I don’t have that kind of patience. Instead, I went into technology because I "hated" people, only to end up managing them!
So, where is all this leading?
At the airport, I picked up a book by one of my favorite authors, Amy Tan. I have all four of her books – not counting the two children’s books. If I had been a writer, she is the kind of writer I would have liked to have been. She is Chinese and the moment I picked up The Joy Luck Club, I knew she was writing about my life. I don’t mean writing about what happened in my life to the exact detail, or even in parallel, but in such a way that the similarities from two very different cultures clash, a reflection of the intangible way in which every Asian culture is the same. She managed to put down on paper the voices in my head when I hear my dead mother’s speaking to me – actually, it’s the way I translate it because I always hear her talking to me in Korean - the way I talk when I imitate Asian aunties speaking. The same tone and intonation I use when I speak with someone who only knows broken English, or who speaks with an Asian accent, however slight. I laugh out loud at contradictions that only an Asian mother can speak, with a straight face and all seriousness, that probably only an Asian (and most specifically, an Asian daughter
) can feel and understand. I used to read passages out loud to HWINLIML, who didn’t find it amusing at all. He told me that I was the only one who found it funny. But I would insist that he keep listening, thinking that if I read enough of it out loud to him, that he would agree that it was funny. But it never worked. I then consoled myself, that he doesn’t understand because he isn’t Asian. It was hard trying to share experiences with a disinterested party who always blamed my “skewed view” of the world. (Of course, now my Hunny Bunny lets me read out loud all I want and seems to appreciate my warped view of the things.)
I was amazed that I had found this author who could speak for me. It’s hard to explain. She knew my voice and my heart. She was able to express “something” that would release long hidden thoughts from deep in my mind – not the actions as she told them but something about the essence of what she was saying. These thoughts released me and I found myself crying over her books – not at what she had written but over the memories that she evoked – mostly sadness about my mother and wonder about the heritage that I didn't really know. I wondered if I was wrong about my mother and whether, unbeknownst to me, all Asian mothers are the same. She hit a chord deep inside.
Amy Tan writes a great deal about mothers. It would be too ambitious of me (or obnoxious?) or presume why… but for me, her writings give me pause to consider my own mother. I saw similarities in her “story mothers” and mine. This led me to wonder if all Asian mothers are the same – all the chest pounding, guilt rendering diatribes, the contradictions, and the annoying habit of never really getting to the point. For the first time, I wondered about the past that shaped my mother, and realized that I knew nothing of her, or what had shaped her. As I recall, I didn’t know much about her in THIS
life much less the life she had before
she was married. In fact, I don’t recall much about her at all even today. I don’t even remember how old she was when she died. And I am ashamed to say that I know nothing about my family history in general.
I now believe that the secret to my “burdens” lies in understanding my mother. By releasing the thoughts and emotions that I have kept hidden, I might find release in this life. The truth of the wisdom I seek by trying to understand world religions might come from this release. And in the end, I might find nirvana, after all. Wouldn’t it be ironic, but probably no surprise, that the very thing that I spurn might lead me to enlightenment, truth, knowledge? So many thoughts, so many emotions and passions, so much to understand and grasp – but can I hold on to the elusive? Can I give voice to the demons that roil behind that closed door? I hear them knocking…
The plane is getting ready to land. Dallas will be hot – in the 90’s. I haven’t been there in over three years. I wonder how much of it has changed.