One of my mom’s signature things is saying hello to everyone she meets in the most cheerful, sing-song way. It’s something I didn’t realize until I became an adult, but now that I recognize it I can’t possibly forget it — in mere seconds it reveals so much about her.
Grace. It’s her first name in English that she chose for herself, based on the song “Amazing Grace.” When she first came to the United States, her roommate (a fellow immigrant from mainland China who had a better command of basic English at that time, considering my mom didn’t speak it at all) suggested the name “Kitty.” Hearing this makes everyone who knows her laugh, because it evokes such a tame, cutesy feeling — it just doesn’t quite capture her spirit. Not knowing any better, she casually went by it for a short time — until she conquered enough of learning English to know her name was meant to be something else. Here’s how I would describe her…
Grace is fierce. Fearless*. Generous. Silly. Strong-willed. Wildly creative. Rigorously thoughtful. Innately nurturing with a fighting spirit. A kind soul with the biggest heart.
*(Did I mention she spoke ZERO English when she arrived to the U.S.? I can’t imagine how much fearlessness that requires. Of course, she speaks of this experience as if it wasn’t daunting.)
And she turns 60 today. I can’t believe it because her larger than life personality makes it feel like she doesn’t - and can’t - age.
Last year, on her 59th birthday, Paul and I went to get our marriage certificate with her as our witness. Yesterday, a day before her 60th birthday, she joined us to visit our wedding venue and make up for some photos we couldn’t get due to last year’s rain. As always, she wore many hats involved in this photo adventure… she’s the mastermind who envisioned and then actually made the decorations we had planned to use on the gazebo we would have been married under had our ceremony been outside. She’s the one who stood atop the ladder to hang them up. She’s the one who made Coco’s flower girl couture masterpiece from an idea in her head (no sketch to go off of). The one who shot our anniversary photos on her iPhone. The one who insisted she drive us.
To my mom: One of my favorite memories is being in your Public Speaking class in Chinese school during elementary school years. There’s a poem we learned which will always stick with me and always make me think of you: “妈妈是个魔术师.” "Mother is a Magician.”
She sure is.