cracked porcelain

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UNLIKE MY MOTHER, MY GRANDMOTHER, AND (PROBABLY) MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER, I've never been been "good" at cooking or cleaning per se. While my mom was able to peel the skin of a pear with a knife in one perfect, continuous strip, the blade fumbled in my hand and I scraped away too much of the flesh. While she eyeballed the measurements of her dishes that all came out restaurant-quality every time, I followed recipes word for word, only for them to be either too salty or not salty enough. When cleaning, her surfaces were always spotless—cleaner than new, meanwhile, I could never scrub off the most stubborn stains, despite (allegedly) being younger and therefore stronger than she is. It seemed like she knew all the tips to work efficiently and I clumsily tried to replicate it. As a kid, I attributed to the fact that I never belonged in the domestic sphere.

"Let me do it," she said with a sigh, taking the greasy pan from me after an unsuccessful attempt at removing the burned crust.

Of course, I didn't put up much of a fight. I mean, what 7th grader wants to do the dishes? Besides, she'd probably do a better job than I would. "I'm hopeless at this."

"No, you're not," she replied, running the soapy sponge under a stream of water. "You just don't practice. I've been doing this since I could walk."

"How did you even learn?" I asked, crossing my sud-covered arms over my chest and leaning my back onto the kitchen island.

"Grandma taught me," she answered, a bubble flying onto her hair. "If I didn't learn, then we wouldn't have anything to eat in China."

The implication left in her words made my nostrils flare. Then why didn't she teach me? Was she insinuating I didn't care to get better? How could I when she kept doing stuff like this—preventing me from doing any chores because I was bad at it? I'm sure she didn't come out of the womb proficient at housework. Did that mean we didn't have as strong of a connection as she and her mother had? If that's true, well it wasn't my fault. She was always working all the time—whether that be at her job or at home—and when she finally got a breather, she wanted to be alone.

"Then why don't you teach me?" I grumbled, watching as she put her sparkling ceramic plates into their respective places on the wire rack nearby. Truthfully, I was offended. Did she think I was a lost cause?

"Aiya, don't worry about it," she shook her head, "just focus on studying, okay?"

It hit me at that moment. Her hands were always calloused and swollen so I'd never had to lift a finger.

I hate to admit it, but I used to look at my mom as motivation to be more successful. I didn't want to be like her—scrubbing toilet bowls in hotel bathrooms for strangers who treated her like gum on the sidewalk, just to make a barely livable wage. I swore I was destined for bigger and better things.

Though, now, I do realize how fucked up that was. She must've thought I was so spoiled. Here was her daughter, who had never learned how to cook and clean out of necessity, looking down on her. Here was her daughter, who she scrubbed toilets for, just so she'd never had to worry about where her next meal came from. She had moved across oceans when she was 17, learned English from American sitcoms, while I was unable to form a coherent sentence in Chinese despite learning the language for 4 years. She arrived in San Francisco with $4.38 to her name and became a homeowner at 30, while I relished in those luxuries without ever even considering the struggles it took to obtain them. If anything, I'd be lucky to even accomplish a fraction of what she has.

Often, when I'm taking the bus, I'll stare out the window and think about all the ordinary citizens waiting at the stops. Some heroes are faceless, performing selfless acts without recognition. I don't ever see my mom's name plastered in history textbooks, nor have I ever seen her wear a cape. Yet, in a way, I have more respect for her than I do for superman. Not once has she ever asked for anything in return—no notoriety, no silent acknowledgments, no statues of herself in parks.

So yeah. I actually do wanna be exactly like her.  


in honor of the mitski song coming tmr (10/5 at 10am EST) i have decided to empty my drafts. this one's kind of unfinished lol i wrote it all in one sitting a while ago and was planning to polish it but i was like screw it. the point of these works is to be personal and unfiltered and unrefined. 

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⏰ Last updated: Oct 05, 2021 ⏰

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