A Daughter’s Memories of Her Mother’s Unconditional Love and Sacrifice Through the Years

  I have been staying in this city for 4 years, and every year I have to witness it suddenly transition into winter after the end of summer. When I wake up, the temperature is so low that there is no way to end it. When the weather gets cold, I can’t help but pick up some warm memories to ward off the cold. I took out the cotton clothes from the cabinet and planned to dry them. Just like this, a white handkerchief was turned out. It has turned yellow after being stored for a long time, and there are unfinished embroidery patterns on it. After looking at it for a long time, I finally recognized that it was my name. The embroidery is crooked and has no shape at all.
   My embroidery was taught by my mother. When I was a child, my schoolbags were all made by my mother. She would choose a piece of fabric in my favorite color, sew it with a sewing machine, and then embroider it with beautiful patterns. The sewing machine makes a “click-click” sound, which is regular, inelastic, and uninteresting. I always fall asleep while listening to it. When my mother finished the schoolbag and I carried it to school, a teacher would ask, “This schoolbag is really well embroidered. Was it your mother who made it?” I agreed proudly. However, this pride did not last long, as no classmates were willing to carry cloth schoolbags. Everyone disliked the old-fashioned and replaced them with good-looking backpacks. I shouted that I didn’t want the schoolbag embroidered by my mother. My mother couldn’t help but persuade me, so she had to agree. She washed my embroidered schoolbag, slowly folded it and put it away.
   In my memory, my mother is always gentle. She never scolded me loudly, never laughed wantonly, and always left me alone, busy. In spring, I want to eat Chinese toon scrambled eggs. She picked the toona leaves, dried them, crushed them, and marinated them for me to eat. In summer, I like to eat hand-made noodles. The weather was so hot, she was kneading dough in the kitchen and rolling out thin sheets of dough. The finished noodles will definitely not contain the ginger and garlic that I hate. In the fall, when I had my period for the first time, I ran home from school and cried when I saw her. She helped me put my clothes away, taught me the ropes of being a big girl, and finally told me to go to bed. When I was almost asleep, she sat beside my bed, held my hand, and woke me up. When I woke up, she had already made scallion pancakes and chopped green onions finely. In the winter, I sat by the fire and ate her roasted sweet potatoes.
   That year, my mother became ill with a brain tumor. The doctor said that surgery would be performed immediately, and there was no guarantee that he would be able to get off the operating table. I sat alone on the side of the road crying. I couldn’t do anything but cry.
   I cried like this until she entered the operating room, and she lost consciousness before she could say anything to me. I stared at the three words “operating theatre” and even memorized the lowercase English word “operating theatre” below. That was probably the most difficult English word I had to memorize in my life. It took me 8 hours to memorize two words.
   We carried it until the doctor came out and told us that the operation was successful. I said “thank you” incoherently, and I was so excited that I wanted to kneel down to the doctor. Until the moment of life and death, you really can’t understand what it feels like to have an emotional breakdown.
   24 hours after the operation, she screamed heart-breakingly because of the pain. Neither my father nor I could stop her from taking off the oxygen mask. I tried to hold her and call her “Mom” again and again. I held her hand all night long, just as she had held mine. The next day, when she was more awake, I fed her medicine. Tears slid down the corners of her eyes.
   I have always loved crying, but I never knew what it was like to watch someone close to me cry. It’s a vast expanse of white snow, without any red color to render it, so cold, so cold. Because of the surgery, her hair was shaved and she wore a baggy hospital gown. One day, she asked me: “Does Mom look ugly like this?” I was peeling an apple for her. I have been her daughter for more than ten years, but I still don’t know what fruit she likes. I blamed myself for peeling every piece of fruit, putting it in the fruit bowl, and feeding her when she woke up briefly. It took longer and longer until she woke up.
   She was a little fatter when she left the hospital. I was busy packing my things, and she called my name abruptly, then turned away and said nothing. None of us are good at expressing intimacy in words. My nose was sore, but I didn’t dare to cry. In such good times, I can only feel grateful. Fortunately, the tumor is benign. Fortunately, my mother can still call me this way and continue to be my mother.
   Before that, I always thought that my mother should be my mother for granted, and she could give me whatever I wanted. Even as a daughter, I have never thought about what my mother was like before she became my mother.
   Later, I rummaged through the dressing cabinet at home and found my mother’s notebook in the bottom shelf. There are scattered notes from her youth, including sewing knowledge taught by the teacher, and light graffiti, depicting lilies. The handwriting on the notebook was beautiful, and the girlishness that came to my face made me instantly know that my mother was not my mother from the beginning. Because of us, she had no choice but to put herself in her mother’s position. Although most of the time he is so soft that he has no sense of existence. He does not get angry with us like his father, and he is not eager to express his opinions. He only does many things silently. Even if he is happy, it is weightless and he smiles lightly.
   If it’s just such a state, that’s fine. But the word “mom” is so heavy that it is impossible to only have a smile in life.
   She jumped out of the role of a little daughter and switched to someone else’s mother. She probably hadn’t fully adapted yet, but she had already begun to suffer from diseases and experienced major disasters in her life.
   I feel sorry for her, but there is nothing I can do to change my life or stop her from crying. Not long after she recovered, my grandfather passed away. I saw her crying again, not silently, nor wailing with abandon. The body that had gained some weight after getting sick quickly lost weight again.
   At that time, I often thought: “How can I make my mother happier?”
   I took a handkerchief and asked her to teach me embroidery. Her body was not very neat and she told me how to route the wires word by word. I was impatient and the embroidery was ugly and I didn’t finish it.
   I don’t know when I brought this handkerchief with me, but I have always carried it with me. Even if my mother only taught half of it, it was she who taught me. I stubbornly wanted to keep everything she gave me in my body and in my memory. On this cold morning, I looked at this square handkerchief and suddenly realized that the gentle part of me was inherited from my mother. Be friendly to others and willing to listen. Even if you encounter some unpleasantness, you should keep it to yourself.
   This part alone is enough for her to breathe freely in my life forever.
   A while ago, I heard from my family that my mother always sounded happy when she mentioned me. I remember that every time I came home, my mother would ask me what I wanted to eat, and even if she was feeling unwell, she would force herself to cook it for me. I wanted to stop her, but seeing her happy made me feel a little sad. I had no choice but to stay by her side, help her, and listen to her talk about the shortcomings of the Zhang family and the Li family, although I didn’t like hearing this either, even though she didn’t like to talk about it before. But I know she just wants to chat with me, on any topic.
   I looked at her figure and suddenly remembered that when I was a child, I went to my grandpa’s house with her. When we reached the intersection, someone complimented her on her beautiful clothes. She laughed instantly.
   That day she wore a light pink shirt and black pants, and had a neat short haircut. Under the sun, he held my hand and walked forward step by step, without saying a word, but with a smile on his face.
   I still remember her lying on the hospital bed and hesitantly asking me if she looked ugly. My mother, she was also a little girl, a little girl who loved beauty. Little girl, I hope you won’t cry again.
   Thinking of this, I finally felt warm in this cold morning.
   Some people live hard, some work hard, and my mother seems to be the one who works hard. But I always feel that a life without complaining requires more care.

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