If you can’t understand, listen.
My mother and I look nothing alike, so much so we were all convinced there was somw shady adoption business going on. We have opposite personalities but somehow we became best friends after surviving the teenage-daughter vs. mother battlefront.
I love her eccentricity and the fact that she raised me in a foreign country but didn’t let me abandon the child-torturing russian lessons that made me bilingual. So while my sister and I were learning languages both old and new, my mom took English lessons at night. For years, she tried her best to assimilate to an entirely different culture, but it was much harder for her than it was for us. Even now, any communication points to the all-obvious fact that she is a foreigner, which always leads to the judgement that she should’ve “learned English a long time ago.” I’ve watched my mother receive eye-rolls and ignorance throughout my entire childhood. She’s forced the speak louder so that people will even turn an ear, until they determine she’s too intellectually incompetent to have a conversation with. The most heartbreaking part is that they won’t even try to listen. I see them turn away as soon as they can.
We’ve been in Europe for a few weeks now. My mom gets treated like a different person. Here, where they respect the hundreds of cultures from hundreds of tourists, they listen to her. She speaks softer, and I see a side of her that I haven’t been able to for many years. I’ve been feeling proud of the fact that we’re actually from Europe, and I can see my pride being mirrored in the respect of strangers around me. Waiters and drivers have been laughing at her stories and ASKING her questions about her life. Here, she’s a bright sun making people smile.
I hate the fact that when we get home, American strangers will act like being an immigrant is an embarrassment. I’ll have to order for her at restaurants and she’ll quietly sit back, because she knows that when her American sounding daughter speaks, her family isn’t being judged. America has truly given us everything, except the chance to feel pride on behalf of our culture.
Please, if you don’t understand, listen. Watch the charades re-ask what you don’t hear, and enjoy the tea that my mom will undoubtedly offer you.