My mother cleaned the houses of
retired rich white women
so she could put food on the table.
My father worked 30 years at a company
that let him go in a blink
2008 collateral damage

I sit in lecture halls and
learn about the placement of stars
the French Revolution, the
abolition of slavery and yet I’ve never
learned to live with this guilt.

My mother has never seen
the inside of a lecture hall
(I skip tutorials all the time)
I sit behind a desk and craft ideas
while my mother is elbows-deep in citrus soap

The thing I’ve learned the most is
that maybe being an immigrant’s daughter is
to live a life of guilt
because I know
that this future of success ahead
is nothing short of
the plan my parents so carefully
and lovingly
worked so tirelessly for me to achieve.


Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I’m dedicating a few poems to my family this May. Please feel free to share your immigrant stories in the comments below.


33 thoughts on “84

  1. My dad owned a business that relied on immigrants for its work force. The “privileged whites” wouldn’t touch the job of skinning dead animals to send their hides to leatheries and cook up their meat and bones for chicken feed. Dad drove the truck to ranches and farms to pick up those dead animals. Mom was Dad’s bookkeeper/secretary. They worked 24/7 so I could get a college education and become a teacher. I never have gotten over the day I learned my favorite playmates (the 3 girls of one of Dad’s workers) had been deported and one died on the trip back to Mexico. Ah, memories!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Immigrant parenthood is rife with sacrifice to provide for their kids. It’s something so much bigger than I am that I’m never sure I could achieve as much as they’ve sacrificed. Thank you for sharing your story.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh em zee

    Asian immigrants that wanted nothing but a life for their children is a true martyrdom of their own making. Maybe I am skeptic of such thing. I was born and half raised in Philippines, still understood what my parents wanted none but a good life for me and my siblings. Personally in my emotional lufe and turbulence of treatment towards my own future from 16 til now. I am to blame these two parents of mine and all of the goodness and tireless half efforts ti understand what I have gone through. At least I can credit, honor and due respect of that. Still the generation before and after, yes. Let’s then give all what they could and could not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this. It’s hard to look back and see just how much they sacrificed for me, but to honour it we have to do our best and reach the things that they couldn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This just reminded me of a book who touched me the most in my early twenties “A girl in translation”. A great post to remember about being grateful to parents who dedicated their lives on sacrifice so that kids get the best chance to have better life.This is pure love.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Emotive piece. My parents emigrated to Canada from Europe when I was five years old. Post-WWII and hard times. They (and us kids) worked hard, long days, 7 days a week just to keep us in food, pay bills, keep the taxman at bay. When I turned 16 I’d had enough and went looking for a better life but I’ll never forget these harsh and humble beginnings in a foreign land. Thanks for the reminder at one week from our Mother’s day. Why don’t they have a Parents’ Day instead – wouldn’t that make more sense, that is if “family” is so important? Just wondering…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. That ability to walk away and build something for yourself is so strong. I agree—in Canada we have a statutory holiday called Family Day!


  5. Good on You Girl!! You are right that there is some guilt for being able to do what your parents can’t, but just remember this is their plan for you and the goal they have chosen – to give you something they haven’t been able to do. This will make you love and care for your parents like others will not! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am sure you have great life ahead for you Elle. And you would be able to do so much for your parents. And one day your children will talk about you with similar love and reverence.
    Love is all there is
    Big hug 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wonder, do all children of immigrants feel like this, as if there is a challenge to do better than their parents. Sometimes I see pressures that are different, a doctor who is an immigrant has a child who wants to do art and write or paint, but the pressures are there for her or him to follow and go into medicine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s also in part, as immigrant parents have sacrificed so much to provide this future for us, that anything less than 100% success feels like being selfish to all their hard work. Thank you for commenting!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m not an immigrant; I’m a white woman born in America in the South. Once upon a time I was a student too, but I’ve also cleaned other people’s toilets to provide for my family, just like anybody would that had little else in the way of opportunity. There’s poor white people too, same struggle, just different skin. I wish you a bright and happy future! I think your parents must be proud of you. Every achievement my children make, though they are all grown now, is a happy event for me too! ❤


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