to begin w/

this is a post in honor of all those other mother/daughter relationships largely spent on skype. you expats & adult-kiddos living away from your ‘rents.

this is a post about the complexity of month-long visits & my need to forgive myself. and learn. and do better, for all of our sakes. trust me, employing only lower-case letters is the least of it.



where do i even begin when my mom has just left us from a month, a solid month of staying here in our cramped room, sharing tight hugs and morning snuggles with her grandbabies. she is touching-down in vietnam now, perhaps reflecting on our time, perhaps only thinking hanoi and how to count her vietnamese dong i exchanged for her. she’ll take her today-painted coral nails and show up big, show up loved.


when do we stop being teenagers with more numbers, more candles to lick after singing? when is the time i phase into grace and sweetness, dropping off impatience like dirty laundry? on that visit, the one without my cursewords, the one in which i don’t brandish my sword, i will be so proud; i will want to skip over every surface as if it were the girlscout bridge. the one you move over when you are no longer called a brownie and everybody sings the “make new friends” song again. at that time, during the perfect visit, i will know i am grown and lovely, the kind of woman my daughter will be with me as we loop arms and walk along the boulevard. did i tell you, my mom took me to theChamps-Élysées? yes i graduated hs and there she was, cash in hand, single mother, doing the grand unthinkable.


on this trip, i tried to repay her…a mere measly token. i bought her musee d’orsay ticket at the gallery here in tokyo. the walls were not staid, not classical white piano keys, but frothy foamy neonic colors as if north miami took part. as if key west was a royal patron. we may have looped arms. or maybe i was my normal aloof, that body language i revert to when i forget how to breathe & just love.

our tickets back then, back when i was a long long-haired sassy teenager, were roundtrip, $600. can you imagine. and the art ticket just this past saturday? 1,600 yen. maybe it is just that. your mother is your mother. i am daughter. i am trying. i am trying. my mom is just amazing, is all, and has been doing it all much longer. even if i buy her cappuccino, i am bound to screw up before she finishes the cup. i forget her water or express loud loud exasperation. i tell ya, i might as well be a fourteen year old with rippling, embarrassing estrogen, and a bad haircut.

but one day, one trip i’ll get more right. and she’s not after much, just love and hugs and no-facades, just the real-deal, enjoy each other, being kind, being some way that makes you savor the day and slurp up your udon which may have gotten so mushy, so lukewarm, but that love…the love that served you didn’t go away.

her love transforms the meager, transforms the scant, the too-salty, the whatever, into what is memorable, into how we remember every crumb, every standing-up un petit déjeuner of un café et un croissant into a Manet or Cassatt.


this is the woman i want to lead my girl scout troop; this is the mother i want to hold onto and look like as she lands in hanoi and gets her bearings, tightening the knotted sweatjacket sleeves around her waste. she will land, proudly. she will figure out how to get to her hotel. she will sleep and dream of our hugs and of hiking the forest at sunset. she will open the door, bring the wheels onto hanoi’s runway, and will emerge as if she genuinely belongs there, flashing the ultimate-even-though-she-is-tired, there-is-so-much-to-be-grateful-for smiles. my mom is the gentlest, most fun kind of fierce. she is strong in her love.

may her trip be a thousand eiffel towers and a hundred swooping hugs.


xoxo love, your daughter.

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