Tuesday, June 1, 2021

My Daughter by Rani Jayakumar

Let me tell you, this has been a long time coming. I told her this might happen if she wasn’t careful, and just look - it has.


Thirty years ago I immigrated here, to this land of milk and plenty, to raise my beautiful children and take advantage of all that America offers. We bought them books, stuffed animals, fancy clothes, breakfasts made of all sugar. We let them go to others’ houses and eat pizza and junk food, giggle about boys, read happy books about childish things. We took them to see the sights, the wax museum, the tall buildings, and the beautiful forests. We marveled at the aisles and aisles of food and clothes and everything you could want, while they insisted on the one thing we could not find there. We invited their friends, offered them our carefully-prepared food, tried to talk with them even as they grabbed a plate and hurried off to the bedroom. 


“Mom, you still have an accent,” she used to say. Well, after living in one country for twenty years, it is inevitable, no? You are the one with the accent, I want to tell her. Learn to speak your native tongue properly, I long to say. But I do not say it aloud, knowing I am also to blame, for not insisting, not teaching her the ways of the old country. For allowing her so much freedom, so that she is now in this predicament. 


I’m not sure if it began with the books, or the TV. On the TV, the shows are always about boys and girls, girls and boys. Even the books are about boys and girls. All the different books with the bright colored covers in pink and purple, with the large words, are all about love. Not serious, deep love, but all this twittering, giggly star-eyed girls in love with the handsome boys, and the boys who do not notice them. I read one of them once - it was kind of interesting, but it is definitely not how life is. 


I want to tell her: life is hard. It is difficult. You must work and save, take care of yourself and your family first, then only can you play. But she does not know this. She thinks life is about fun and love, and “following your passion.” This is not the old way. Back home, if you follow your passion, you will starve. 


Her older sister was more sensible. She also did the giggling and books and TV, but when it was time for college, she went to an Ivy League school, got a good degree in computer science, and became a professor at a good university. She married the son of an old friend from home - a very sweet boy - and has two beautiful boys, my grandsons. She is much too strict with them, but I give them treats and teach them to speak our language while they run circles around me.


But this one - oh, she has always been trouble. In high school, instead of studying, she wanted to join cheerleaders. Why cheerleaders? Nobody knows. As her father says, “They only kick their legs in their underwear.” For this, she wants to be with them? No, again for the boys, I think.


Then she went to college. Not Ivy League but still pretty good. She was studying literature, though I don’t know when she was reading this. Grades were okay but again, the boyfriends, and the parties. Sometimes I call her on Friday night and she is not anywhere, even until 2, 3 o’clock! I think, again, she is with boys.


Then, she had her graduation, she got a good degree, and she wants to do some job in “public relations,” but I don’t know how this is related to literature. So, okay, we let her do that, she is doing okay, and she meets a boy. They do not want to be married, but they are living together. This was too much, and her father was very angry, but I calmed him saying that this is the way of children now. This was my mistake. 


Now she is sitting here. The boy is gone. Where, no one knows. She is angry with me for not telling her he was not a good boy. How could I know? 


She is going to have a baby. Again, I will be a grandmother. I tell her, I will find you some nice boy and you can marry him. You can have a happy life. But she says no, I will raise this baby, just like you raised me. She knows her father was too busy with work. 


I hope, for her sake, it is not a girl.


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