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The Me My Children Will Never Know

Updated on November 9, 2015

Have you read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan? If you have not, please do. Or see the movie. The book is, of course, better but the movie is one of the rare ones that truly captures the book. These Chinese immigrant mothers do not know how to relate to their America born daughters and vice versa. Amy Tan thoughtfully takes you through who the mothers were as young girls, then as women in China. She is also able to perfectly explain the disconnect daughters often feel from their mothers. A beautiful symbiosis occurs when the daughters finally see their mothers as women and realize their mothers were hoping and fighting for their daughters all along.

I first read this book when I was in high school. I appreciated the story from beginning to end. Having always been close to my mother, I thought I fully got the gist. There were layers and layers to her I knew I would never understand. Why did she have such a complicated relationship with her own mother? How did she meet my dad and why did she stay for so long? Why did certain songs get an automatic channel change on the radio? All she would say is they reminded her of something she didn't want to think about. I could only understand these things from my perspective. The daughter's perspective. Which at 17, was very naive. But I thought I fully realized exactly what Amy Tan was trying to say.

I recently re-watched the movie.

Twenty years have passed, one son buried, fourteen years of marriage under my belt and I see I had no idea. I know that my children are having a much different childhood than the one I had. A more peaceful one, to be sure. I feel there aren't as many obstacles between having my marriage and raising my children as there were for my mother. But will my children ever really know that? How could they? Like so many other instances in life, unless they have traveled the same path they will only, at best, sympathize. Did my mother ever wonder the same about us when we were small? If we would ever fully understand how different she was trying to make things for us?

My children won't know the Me who existed before their births, before their father. A single, solitary, often lonely woman. They won't know a young girl who pinned her hopes on an idea made man at the age of 17. They won't know how far she unraveled in that man. The one who said she lost her light. How in the end he set her free to save her. They won't know how that girl became an adventurer who laughed and explored and learned to stand on her own. They won't know the woman who reached back in time to reclaim her light and stepped out in faith to find God's purpose.

They will only know that in that purpose, God led her to their father.

I think I would rather have it that way. I just can't be sure. Even though they won't see the joy of that Me, they won't see the dark I lived in for some years, either. They will get the benefit of my experiences but not experience my pain. I cannot help but wonder how much of my mother's joy I have missed by not knowing her Me before me. But I can rest assured that I have seen her joy since. I see her clearer than ever now.

“I still don't know which way I would teach you. I was once so free and innocent. I too laughed for no reason. But later I threw away my foolish innocence to protect myself. And then I taught my daughter, your mother, to shed her innocence so she would not be hurt as well.... If I now recognize evil in other people, is it not because I have become evil too? If I see someone has a suspicious nose, have I not smelled the same bad things?...Then you must teach my daughter this same lesson. How to lose your innocence but not your hope. How to laugh forever.”

--Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club


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