Last week, I spent a week with my fellow Korean-American clergywomen. Once a year, we gather together to worship, fellowship, and reflect on a theme. This year, the theme was Generations: Wisdom of the Ages. In the midst of our group, we have first generation, 1.5 generation (those that came over when they were 9-early teens) and 2nd generation. We shared stories of being a daughter. We all may not be sisters or mothers, but we all are daughters. Some of us shared how our experience as daughter influences our experience as a mother.
Afterwards, we watched the movie “The Joy Luck Club.” If you haven’t watched it, the movie is about the relationship between four daughters and their respective mothers. In a previous blog, I shared my experience in watching this movie with my mother when it first came out:
There is a scene in the movie where June is in the kitchen with her mother. They are cleaning up after a dinner party. June’s mother looks over at her and asks, “Are you angry with me?” and June responds, “I’m sorry I’m such a disappointment to you. I’m sorry I’m such a terrible daughter.” Surprised by her response, her mother asks her what she is talking about and says, “You are not a disappointment. All my hopes and dreams I put on you.” June continues to say, “Every time you put your hopes and dreams on me, I feel like a failure because I can not live up to them. I wish you would see me for me. Why can’t you see me . . .me . . . the real me?” June’s mother looks into her eyes, takes off her jade necklace and begins to put it around June’s neck. She gently responds, “I do see you. I see you.”
My whole life I longed for my mother to see me. I longed for that moment that June had with her mother where her mother finally saw her. I took my mother to this movie, hoping that this scene would become a reality in my life. During the movie, my mother and I laughed, cried, and bonded over the stories of the mothers and daughters. After the movie, I turned to my mother in anticipation that my mother would turn to me and finally see me for me. As my mother wiped away her tears, she slowly turns to me and . . . blurts out, “Do you see what those mothers went through for their daughters? Do you see how ungrateful the daughters were to their mother’s sacrifice and suffering?” And just like that, my moment had gone.
This scene epitomizes the generational and cultural tension between my mother and me. Today being Pentecost and the birthday of the church, I think about how my daughter’s birthday is coming up. As my daughter turns four in a couple weeks, I wonder what our relationship will blossom into. Will I see her? Will she see me? That’s my hope.