Diminished voices, speaking loud
“Kayleah... Kayleah… KAYLEAH.”
My mother always repeated her statements in threes, louder each round, without any care if I had responded or not. It didn’t matter to her whether it was at the dinner table, the grocery store, in the quiet aisles of the library, or while driving on the freeway with me in the car… sitting next to her.
And with every repetition, I became equally impatient and irritated.
“Mom… MOM… WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
I admit, I’ve lost my temper at times when my mom and I simply talk – merely because of her severely prolonged explanations (repeated several times, of course) that would drive me insane.
“Get to the point,” I would tell her. “Stop talking so loud,” I would yell back. I became frustrated: Was it her difficulty in speaking English? Was it her personality? Or was it because of her home culture?
I searched for all the possible rationales to explain her ceaseless echo of thoughts.
“Sorry ddal *…” she would apologize.
Afterwards rolled in an uneasy silence that left both of us awkwardly shuffling our hands at the dinner table, the grocery store, in the quiet aisles of the library, or while driving in the car.
“It’s fine, but mom –– explain clearer,” I would say. Then I would sheepishly smile. But I always felt bad.
Ensuing our altercation was always this look on her face that I couldn’t describe: Sorrow? Guilt? Embarrassment? Frustration?
I could never figure out.
For my entire life, I’ve always assumed her gradually loud, repetitive demeanor was a fusion of her immigrant experience and lack of knowing English. Her long-winded commentary and responses would prime my ignorance; I would berate her with a harsh tone, hoping to stifle her monotonous discourse.
However, it’s taken years for me to realize that it’s women who come from backgrounds where they’re not heard –– women of color –– that have learned to speak louder to get their points across. Consequently, her life as a maternal figure, housewife and stay-at-home parent nurtured and shaped her voice, while simultaneously muffling her inherent range of expression as a human. Within the East Asian culture that perpetuates the male dominance and subordinate, inferior women, I realized her loud and discursive conversations was not to overpower others, rather for someone to simply listen to her thoughts.
So mom –– I’m sorry for getting mad at you. I’ll always try my best to hear you out.
Whenever you need me,
I’ll always be listening.
*daughter in Korean