For as long as I can remember, my parents have been eating at the same restaurant almost every single day. They go there because they like the food, the ambience, the vibe — it reminds them of Hong Kong, of a past they’re familiar with. I used to like the restaurant too, until I started hating it for the lack of change. It was always the same cuisine, the same food made by the same chefs, served by the same waiters and I was sick of it.
Eventually, during my teenage years, I went through a rebellious stage and stopped going to the restaurant completely. I’d say heartless, irrational words like I wish I weren’t Chinese, or mock my parents for always being predictable and old-fashioned. I’d argue back whenever I could and look down on the traditions I felt were forced on me. I insulted their beliefs. I disrespected their efforts in raising me. I rejected their teachings, convinced of their lack of understanding towards me and discredited the very culture in which I was brought up. Everything I shouldn’t have done, I did, all for the sake of spiting them and challenging their authority.
Looking back now, it’s silly to see the person I once was. It’s hard to imagine myself that way, a person so reckless, so naive and so blindly unaware of the sacrifices my parents made. It’s hard to believe how much time has already passed and how it’s only now that I realize the mistakes I’ve made.
I wish I could go back.
It terrifies me knowing that my parents aren’t as young as they used to be. They don’t show it, but I can tell. They’ve grown older, more thin and more frail. Their originally black hair being quietly overwhelmed by shades of gray. Their bodies weaker, more susceptible to cold and tiredness.
I wish I had more time.
If they ask me now to go with them to their favorite restaurant, I’d go without hesitation. I’d be sick of the never-changing food, but I’d still go because it’s now that I’ve realized that sometimes, it’s not about what you don’t like, but what you value more. What I value more, what I cherish is the opportunity to spend more time with my parents no matter the occasion, no matter the location. What I value more is being able to see the satisfaction my parents get from eating the food they enjoy and are familiar with. What I value more now is the happiness they get from being able to share with me the very sense of familiarity they get from frequenting that restaurant.
Life wasn’t easy growing up. My parents did everything they could to provide for me, giving me a life worth living for, giving me the opportunity to learn and giving me support in following my dreams. I am everything I am because of them. I am who I am because of them. So what’s a little bit of sacrifice on my part if it genuinely makes them happy? For all that they’ve done, for the unconditional love and support they’ve given me, for all the times they never gave up on me even when I was a spoiled brat, they deserve their happiness. They’re entitled to it. They’re entitled to their choice of restaurant. To me, eating food that I don’t particularly like is a small sacrifice to make when compared to the sacrifices my parents have made in all the years they’ve spent raising me.
And I understand where they’re coming from. When you grow older, you hold on to your beliefs, your values, your traditions and habits differently. My parents have spent their lives fighting for stability in constantly changing times, in a world far away from what was once their home in a culture vastly different from the ones they were brought up in. To my parents, the restaurant with it’s never-changing food and it’s ambience is the best reminder of their past. It’s the representation of their values, traditions and habits they’ve held.
My generation is different. Everything is even more volatile and ever-evolving than theirs had been. Most of the traditions and culture my parents have tried to pass down to be have already been long forgotten. But despite all that, despite having forgotten, I’m thankful for the one thing that hasn’t been forgotten: the importance of family. If there’s anything I can pass down to my future children, my future generation, it’s that.
Mom, dad, it’s taken me a while but I’ve finally grown up. I love you both. Thanks for always having been there for me.