Thirty-six years ago, you put on a brave face and took this passport photo with your family. The portrait was taken for our refugee application as we prepared to flee Viet Nam. And Dad, an intelligence officer working with the CIA couldn't be in the portrait because he was busy fighting the war.
Now that I'm older with a kid of my own, the image means so much more to me. I imagine myself in your shoes and I wonder whether I could have been as strong as you were. Look at you! You are devastatingly elegant (I covet your Omega watch), looking poised as ever, alone with your five children ranging from two months old to five years old. At the time, you were an officer's wife. And a woman of privilege. What you do not show on your face is that you were about to lose your country, family, friends, and life as you knew it.
Weeks later we ended up in a refugee camp in Guam. There you patiently waited for dad. After weeks of scanning the arrivals boards, you were eventually reunited. We were put on a plane and flown to the States (France rejected us), where I was eventually raised in Arlington, Virginia.
Your name is Bach-Tuyet or white-snow in Vietnamese... it conjures up a beautiful and gentle image. But you are so much more than postcard pretty. You're incredibly fierce about your family. You are a loyal wife. A loving disciplinarian. An amazing chef (I've never seen anyone make decorative flowers out of radishes and carrots like you). A host that would shame Martha Stewart. A karaoke queen. You're technologically advanced among your peers (I firmly believe you helped start the mom-spam movement. I beg of you please, stop forwarding me emails with videos of four year olds who can play musical instruments amazingly well). A jokester. A social butterfly. An avid world traveler. Calmingly Buddhist. And a giver (I've never known you to be a taker). You are rock solid and a force to be reckoned with. This last trait is what I admire most about you.
On Mother's Day, I think about how I aspire to be anything like you. While some friends dread turning into their moms, I wish and hope that I can raise the family you did. And I pray Lulu will someday love me as much as I love you.
Ma, I am so lucky to have you still. Happy Mother's Day! It's an understatement to say I love you. And because I am a good Asian daughter, I Googled how to say it in Vietnamese too: Con yêu Mẹ!