As a child you told me stories.
Stories of princesses and dragons and magnificent castles
Filled with flowers and little pink tassels.
Even the ones about Superman and Wonder woman
How they saved the world from the worst of crimes
But those stories weren't the ones that I loved the most.
The stories where
You talked about crossing the oceans in a tiny boat
Survived for months with only a day's worth of food
Drifting in the waters because there was nothing left to lose.
Lands once flourished with beauty
White ao dai, the traditional dresses of your country
Now stained with the blood of war.
To be free from the fight was all that you wanted
Tearing at your heart and soul
You had to leave and run, never to return
And those homelands you left behind
Were simply burned.
This is where
You then sometimes stopped in the middle of the phrase
To stroke my hair, wipe tears off your gentle face,
And whisper, "We were saved"
When you mentioned how lucky you were
To spot a ship from afar.
American soldiers who pulled you up from the salty waters
And not knowing if the water from your eyes
Were ocean water or tears
But you made it.
Everyone made it.
But the struggle wasn't over because
You then came to foreign place
Not knowing how to speak a thing
But you managed to wait.
Taking classes, working hard, making connections
Simply to fit in.
To find your place in a new society
Because your old one disappeared.
And to hear those yelling "Go back to your country"
Was the most heart-breaking.
What country? What home?
War destroyed it all.
Even then you held your breath
Just like what you did in the ocean tides
Eventually, you assimilated.
You learned their language
And annunciated every syllable, every word
To articulate every thought and idea
That was buried deep down in the Pacific.
And you see,
These stories had the true heroes.
There were no damsels in distress saved by the prince
No superhero to swoop down and save the day.
They were true heroes
Swimming against the waves of fate
Gasping for breath simply to live
Fighting for the freedom that they deserved
All by themselves.
To be free from oppression
To simply become an American.
These bedtime stories were real.
Every word, every sentence.
And I take pride in them because
My father, my mother, my people were those heroes.
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