Roots of My Tree

Nicole - manvel, Texas
Entered on March 30, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: immigrant, legacy
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I believe that everyone should know their roots. Knowing the cultures that make up someone is important, because it tells all of the unexplainable aspects about the person. Often times in today’s society, youth forgets where they came from, where their family origin comes from, and how to respect that. I stumbled upon this reasoning as I was growing up, a Vietnamese girl living in the United States that resembled more of American cultures than Vietnam.

As a child, I never paid much attention to my ethnicity. As children, we’re all naïve and innocent, and race and accents are left behind us. However, growing older to my teenage years, differences amongst my friends and I became more apparent. I tried hard to keep up with all of the modern American fashions, brands, and lifestyle that my friends were living.

Years ago, my grandparents came down to Houston to visit my family and I. My grandparents and parents moved to the United States during the Vietnam War, leaving behind them all of their childhood memories in the soil of Vietnam. One day, my grandparents noticed all of the ‘American’ things about me: the branded clothing, R&B, pop songs on my ipod, my limited Vietnamese vocabulary, my perfect English grammar. They asked me one day if I check up on the Vietnamese News websites, if I introduce myself to people by my Vietnamese name, instead of my English name, if I remembered the cities that my parents were born in. When I found myself answering ‘no’ to all of these questions, I saw the disappointment in my grandparent’s eyes. They looked at me blankly, nodding their heads as if they regretted moving to America. It was then when I realized that I had let them down. Not by my clothes or my poor behavior- but by forgetting who I was. The feeling of emptiness and shame crossed my body as my grandparents moved on up to their rooms. I stopped to think of what was it about me that classified me as being American, rather than Vietnamese. I knew that I could be both, but by the looks my grandparents gave me, I knew they thought of me as American.

Being puzzled by this, I talked to my mother about it. She went on to tell me that I shouldn’t feel ashamed, rather, I should feel a desire to change. She told me about the little things about me that would never change: my small feet, straight black hair, eyes, and my name that is difficult to say. All of these things were given to me the day I was born, so I never paid attention to the meaning of it. She went on to tell me the history of Vietnam, from the terrors of the war helicopters to the beautiful villages that she grew up on.

After that night, I felt different. I felt like I had changed, merely by hearing the stories that my mother told me. I felt new appreciations toward my plain hair and small eyes. I realized that my complicated Vietnamese name comes with sentimental meaning and thoughtfulness. In that one night, I was able to learn about my true culture. I felt a sudden urge to visit Vietnam myself, in order to see all of the things that contribute to every aspect of me. Hearing about my culture made me want to go back to Vietnam to touch my tree, my roots, my begins.