I remember when I was 10 years old and I was washing dishes and bussing tables at this Chinese restaurant in the suburbs. I was making $10 a day and was made aware instantly what my parents did 7 days a week to give my sister and I a home.
I remember they would come home late at night smelling and stained with grease and I would eye them lovingly hoping they would hold me. They never held me instead they gave me a smile. I smiled back, not understanding why all we got was a smile.
Even when times were tough like when we were denied for food stamps, when my mom got into a car accident, my grandma passing, or my dad losing his job, they still smiled. Never shedding a tear when times got tough, always reminding us that "Life is like rain fall, sometimes it drizzles and sometimes it pours. Either way we always dry off."
I resented that quote because I always felt like the universe always had our lives in a flood. It never stopped raining. It didn't stop raining when my grandma passed and my dad realized how alone he was in the world. It didn't stop raining when my mom lost her job and had to figure out how to afford a house, 2 kids, 2 car payments, and etc. with her $326 unemployment check. It sure as hell didn't stop raining when at 13 I became a statistic and understood abuse. It always felt like we were drowning and there was no life boat in sight.
I stopped smiling and parents didn't understand why. I stopped smiling altogether and started frowning at the thought that we were drowning. So I did what any other immigrant child did, I grew the fuck up and became my parent's parents. From handling bills, immigration papers, translation, and etc. I became the authority figure. I was angry that I had to abandon my creative pursuits and even angrier that my days were filled with more grey skies and drowning flowers.
Now at 24, I'm circling back to that event at 10 where I smelled of grease and soy sauce. I am smiling again. I am smiling cause I'm finally understanding the beauty in my parent's struggle and the symbolism behind that smile. They smiled cause they saw potential, hope, a sense of hope, happiness, and growth that only stemmed after years of down pour. They smiled cause that was the only thing my parents could ever give us at the end of the day. Their smile meant happiness, my happiness, their happiness, and the idea that one day when I smiled back at my significant other and kids I would understand why those rainy days brought the reddest roses.