I sat at the communal table, looking at the woman in front of me. Her story, partly unfolding between us, the rest left up in the air for me to fill in the blanks. I was eating perogies at the market, much needed after a tough Bikram class, and she was on her lunch break from the butcher's.
But there won't be much guessing from my end. Her story, much like the other stories I've grown up with, they seem to be cut from the same cloth, written with the same ink.
As a child, I had the opportunity to see many sides of this world, from the mountains and seas of my homeland to the desert of the Middle East to the prairies of North America. Some travels not by free will but of economics. Some by need, not want. And I always knew that my parents did it all for us. I always knew my mother did it for me.
This woman, she has my mother's eye colour, a shade slightly darker than mine. The worry, buried within the lines of her face, traces a familiar path. Those lines I knew very well. They carry the burden of family, of tradition, of obligation, only further complicated by migration.
As I listen to this woman, who also sounds very much like my mother, list her concerns over her own mother's health, her son, the coffee and sugar that she has collected over the months to send back home, I become torn.
Torn between anger and empathy like I always do when I hear my own mother say these words:
'They have nothing back home. We have everything. We moved here so you kids can have a better life.'
Though it did not show in my face, my cheeks flushed unnoticeably. Why was I angry as I sat across the woman whose eyes shone like my mother's?
Because this is not the first time I have heard this story. Because it will not be the last time I will hear this story. Because I knew, that even if someone asked this woman what she needed for herself, she will never tell them. There are others who are more important, she will insist.
I also know that with all the sacrifices she had made, she will be too tired to take care of herself, too guilty to enjoy herself, too selfless to want something for herself. She will become unhealthy because the health of everyone else comes before her. She will be too worried to see the sun still shines as bright as it did when she was a child.
She will be buried under the shadows of gendered obligation, of responsibility. After years of taking care of others, she will forget she needs it too.
I was angry because these women once dreamed of the stars, of seeing the world, of changing the world. Those dreams they shared with their daughters, so we, their daughters, can shatter glass ceilings, melt iron walls, and break the chains of status quo.
But because of duty and obligation written by the cruel hands of tradition persists, all those dreams, their dreams, get left behind.
I say I am angry, but you and I know, after you read this, that anger is the mask that sadness wears.
You and I also know that anger inspires hope. So you see, as much as mothers say their children are their lives, there is nothing their children would want more than for their mothers to follow their dreams, too.
I will never be ungrateful for what I have been given because my mama did not raise me to be so. But I wish, women whose eyes shine like hers, would find those stars once again.