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Dear Pau Pau: A Love Letter to my Asian American Grandmother and Mother by Lisa Wong

Dear Pau Pau: A Love Letter to my Asian American Grandmother and Mother by Lisa Wong

Dear Pau Pau (Grandmother) and Mom,

Where to start?

Everyone is talking and writing of hate now.

Hate against us.

Hate against you, Pau Pau (Grandmother).

Hate against you, Mom.

Hate against me.

 

Not so long ago, I wrote about being yelled at for my face.

I don’t worry so much about me.

I worry about you.

How could anyone not love your faces?

Your beautiful faces have loved me since the time I was born.

 

You taught me to be good.

You taught me to be strong.

You taught me to be wise.

You taught me to be kind.

 

Yes, Pau Pau (Grandmother), you were beautiful. You looked like the Asian Elizabeth Montgomery.

Yes, Mom, you always had people staring at you, admiring your beauty.

The others who saw you, saw the outside only, saw only what they wanted to see.

I didn’t see what the others saw.

 

I saw what they couldn’t see, weren’t ready to see, didn’t want to see.

I saw your quiet love and strength.

I saw you sacrificing what little you had and sending money back to our poor family in China until the day you died, Pau Pau (Grandmother).

I saw you raise three children as a single parent, Mom.

 

You have both worked your whole lives to make a better way for your children.

How could anyone hate you my darling Pau Pau (Grandmother) and Mother?

How could anyone want to hurt you because of your beautiful faces?

 

Pau Pau (Grandmother), you were so brave to come here long ago and far away, all alone, with no family, no money, and no job.

You married and started a successful business with your new husband.

You made a life and raised 8 children, 14 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren.

 

Mom, you taught us to study and work hard. You reminded us that Pau Pau (Grandmother) never had the opportunity to read or write (even in Chinese) and that I was so very fortunate to live in a country where children went to school instead of work.

 

You both sacrificed and raised families.

You gave back to our neighbors and community.

How can they not see all this when they looked at you?

How could they want to hurt your beautiful faces?

 

Pau Pau (Grandmother), you came because Auntie Liberty (the Statue of Liberty) invited you to.

She said, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to

breathe free . . .”

 

You believed you would be welcome and safe in a country full of others yearning to breathe free.

You are not welcome by all in this country. You are not safe because of our faces.

Maybe they hate our faces because we remind them of what they used to be and are afraid of becoming again.

So, what do we do right now?

 

We have to teach them.

Who will teach them? All of us. Together.

What do we teach them? We teach them to be good, to be strong, to be wise, and to be kind.

When do we teach them? Now, tomorrow, and always.

 

Where do we teach them? In our homes, schools, jobs, churches/temples/synagogues, government, and in the news.

Why do we teach them? We teach them so all of our Pau Paus (Grandmothers) and Mothers will always be safe.

How do we teach them? With love, from the beginning.

 

We have to love them from the time they are born.

Then, we can teach them to be good, to be strong, to be wise, and to be kind.

Then, everyone can talk and write of love.

 

Love for us.

Love for you, Pau Pau (Grandmother).

Love for you, Mom.

Love for me.

 

I love your beautiful faces.

 

Love,

Lisa

 

 

Lisa S. Wong serves as co-chair of the Grace Cathedral Congregation Council and is former chair of its Social Justice Committee. Her earlier post on anti-Asian racism can be found here.

 

“Love Mandala.” Artist: Nancy Hom, 2021

 

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