Written on a plane, like most of my other thoughts

“It was so easy to blame the mother. Life a miserable contradiction, endless desire but limited supplies, your birth just a ticket to your death: why not blame the person who’d stuck you with a life? OK, maybe it was unfair. But your mother could always blame her own mother, who herself could blame the mother, and so on back to the Garden. People had been blaming the mother forever...”

— Excerpt from Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.

Five-hour redeye flight after a long day of shoot. I'm seated in a budget airline flying from Shanghai to Phuket. My mother is seated next to me. Our arms are intertwined and we share a u-neck pillow, both of our knees grazing the seat in front of us. She seems to slip in and out of sleep. I'm too tired to fall asleep, and my body itches from sitting for so long. My mind visits a million thought chambers. I decide to read Purity, the book I started on a while back.

This is the first time I am taking my mom on a mother-daughter holiday. And it should be acknowledged as a notable moment, as it marks the change in our relationship and our roles in each other's lives; I'm finally old enough and mature enough to break out of being so self-involved, to finally be the one that planned specifically to spend time with my mom withou a necessary purpose.

I had a lot of disdain towards life in general in my adolescence, but my biggest scorn was targeted at her. She was an easy target; back then, she seemed impossibly old-fashioned and anti-me (whatever that was). As an immigrant parent, she failed to speak my language, literately and figuratively, and the tiresome manner in which she stressed her wishes for me to pursue stability via a conventional path drove me further away from her. I was immature and wrapped up in my own life starring me as a protagonist and her as the Mom character. May sound stupid, but it took me decades to really realize she's a person, too, and that she was just doing what she knew best to make sure I would be taken care of, when or if she no longer could. She felt responsible for me.

It's the sort of a realization that makes you humble and human, but not without a sense of guilt. I tear up about it, because I'm a a hypersensitive idiot. But I think my mom understands it all; perhaps she too blamed her mom at a point. And as I think through all of this, I squeeze my mom's arm. It's soft, comforting, and all those warm homey things that are Mom, and I'm so thankful that I'm sitting in this plane with her beside me.

Bubble Baubles

Portraits for Vs. Magazine's Desire Issue, shot by Kenneth Willardt, styled by Vibe Abelsteen. Makeup Justine Purdue, hair Dennis Lanni.


[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” Copyright 1952, © 1980, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust, from Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage.

Source: Poetry (June 1952).

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