in the mail

My first year here in Oakland, my parents sent me a care package of persimmons from the backyard. They sent a 30-pound box via a bus line that travels between Little Saigon in Westminster to a banh mi shop on International Boulevard in Oakland.

Whether it was because it was the first mail that I’d received from my parents in a very long time, or because I was simply emotional about being far away, or because I’d recently gained a new connection with my parents through our time together in Cambodia, I cut out the address that my mother wrote. I liked the way she wrote “Oakland.”

Her handwriting is a mix between print and cursive. There is a roundness, a sweetness, in the letters and numbers. I can imagine her at the kitchen table, writing slowly and carefully in this language so different than Khmer, making sure that she’s written my address correctly.

I didn’t feel this way when I was growing up. Because her handwriting didn’t look exactly the way I was learning to write in school, because it didn’t look like my teachers’ handwriting, I squirmed at her notes to me. They didn’t look right, even when their content was all kindness and effort. Her writing reminded me of difference, not only between myself and her, but between our family, our people, and the world I had to live in– the only world I knew how to live in, the world I was trying to learn how to live in. And I resented that reminder.

Now, I resent the forces that created that feeling of alienation and contempt. Now, I look at my mother’s handwriting and it reminds me to be patient. It reminds to be kind. It reminds me to be loving. It reminds me to try my best.


her hand