When they ask you what kind of tiger mom I was, I hope you'll say I was soft.
Hope you’ll say I was fierce. Tenacious. Simple. That I would chew my own bones just to keep my teeth sharp. That I would make soup for a sick vulture. That some evenings I would circle you, like a choice, and fall asleep.
Tell them how we’d walk together, a bouquet of wild footsteps. Tell them about the good mornings: when I’d boil you an egg or when I’d tuck a kiss in your pocket or hold a lighthouse between our hands. Tell them I did my best, even when I’d disappear. Tell them we are a family of ghosts and every one of them sound like me. Say: to this day, it’s hard to tell us apart.
The other night I dreamt a man was driving a truck across time and I hopped into the back. At any moment, memories sneak up on us, bum a ride. Once I put a roman candle into the ground and it fell over. Stars shot at our family instead of the sky. Pow, pow, pow, pow, until your uncle kicked it away. When I met your father, he treated me like a holiday. We were so in love we lit everything. Every day he stole fireworks till he built me a home out of them.
You wonder why I bite the lies right out of you. Why I smother you in a mother’s temper before yours ignites. Why you are having trouble breathing, why ashes are streaming down your cheek. Child, you and I are divine, we are sacred. We are sacrifices, we are legends, proof of prayer, protectors; but first we were small explosions, so fallen we could not tell sky from being kicked.
Will you believe me - that I can’t help but raise you like a rescue? Sometimes you sing the song I made you with and all I hear are sirens. I see you cower the way I cower and I cower again, because there are so many ways to ruin you. I think: how was I, a foolish, reckless girl, given such an important, dangerous thing to tend to? How can I, an ordinary woman, open your gifts and not choke on the honor of being recognized as your mother?
Be braver than I was, so that you can forgive yourself often! Tell them you are the tiger's son: an unfinished folk tale, a new tradition. The one she raised to be more powerful and more humble than anyone who happened to see her, more peaceful than the mountain spirit that leaned on her. Tell them your mom was unrelenting; she leaped to love you, silenced herself into a roar. Tell them. She never wanted you to be afraid of being afraid.