Second-hand Struggles


There are no better stories than when someone tells about their struggles, at least that’s the best second-hand story I heard to-date. The best one I’ve heard so far was from my mother. During special dinners, she often tells snippet of her adventures in America. She still tells it but often, it remains vague and incomplete because conversations topics often get switch around and she never had a chance to tell the complete version of the story.

I’ve always wanted to know the complete story. How did my mom and step-dad meet? What made them want to get married? But I never bothered to ask for the full story because the story of her struggles often leaves me feeling guilty. So I guess I’ll have to live with only having the snippets.

Note: each paragraph is just another snippet I collected from dinner. No embellishment whatsoever.

I came to the United States with $1000 dollars in my pocket. After the tour, all I have left was $800 and I didn’t want to go home. So when everyone got on a plane that would take them from Los Angeles to China, I stayed at the airport. 

I didn’t know English. I couldn’t even understand when the operator on the pay-phone told me to dial one first before dialing number with different area code until a stranger explained to me. 

Within a few months, I passed my TOEFL and changed my travel visa to a student visa. My money supply was dwindling. I had to go get a job even though it wasn’t legal. 

I got a job as a live-in housekeeper for a single mom with two kids. She treated me awfully and so did her boys. Her boys often get in trouble school and she ended up to have to fix those problems. After a few months, I quit. 

At school, I met a nice lady and she told me her husband’s bakery was hiring. I got the job. It was far and I had to take an hour bus to get there. It was the best job so far. He often gave me left-over to take home. After a few months, he had to let me go because he could no longer afford a hand. 

I met Jim in my darkest time. I was working in a restaurant and going to school full-time. I met him in an elevator. He gave me his sandwich when I forgot dinner. He provided me with transportation when I needed. 

6 thoughts on “Second-hand Struggles

    • Me too but it makes me feel kind of guilty to ask my mom to tell the whole story because I know what the ending will always be and that is,”I did it all because of you.”

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      • Yeah, I understand. I know it feels like a guilt trip, but your mom maybe (probably) grew up during some awful stuff — and certainly heard of worse. I can’t really say, but… Most of us are here because some parent long ago (or not so long ago) did something desperate. I helped two of my friend emigrate… They did not want to admit to desperation but I could see it and feel it.

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  1. I only know snippets of my Dad’s upbringing, impressions, thoughts and family history. I learned a little from Mom about Dad’s scary experiences in WWII and difficult experiences when he arrived in the US shortly after. I learned even less from Dad before he passed. That’s why I’m enrolled in a genealogy class and hope to pick Mom’s brain, or possibly even get her to write something, about both herself and Dad when I am visiting her over the holidays. It may not always be comfortable but hearing their stories gives a lot of insight into who our parents and other family members are and why they treat us the way they do. I do know from my mom how she and my dad met. This really set the stage for their relationship, at least from her perspective and based on my observations. I wish I knew how it happened from Dad’s view.

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