Taller and Higher

I am four years old.

I have a dream of the time I had a sleepover at my friend’s house

She groaned at the obnoxious buzz of the alarm clock

Her mom gently rolled her out of her princess themed bed

She asked if she could sleep over my house next week.

I didn’t know how to tell her that I didn’t have one.

I didn’t know how to tell her that my daily alarm clock consists of the shouting and hollering the elderly lady that my mother cares for makes.

My mother does not roll me out of bed.

She nudges and hovers above the ancient ottoman where I lay.

She looks at me steadily with tired, sleepless eyes.

A finger pressed against her lips. Shhh...

The old lady hates children in her home.

I nod and say “sure!” to my friend anyways and hope she forgets.

I am 6 years old

I wake up 5 minutes too late. The Metro Bus leaves at 5:50, it is already 6:30

I hold on to my father so tightly I can hear the gears in his head slowly whirring and cranking out the vocabulary words he learned at school

His strained eyes press together so hard he could see the equations he was studying embedded on his eyelids and like a tree in harsh winds, he sways from side to side, falling asleep standing.

I look up at my dad and say sorry.

My father smiles and whispers “it’s okay,” as if he didn’t have enough energy to generate a voice

A shiny red car suddenly stops in front of us, the gust of its powerful engine suffocates our breath

It is my friend in the back seat, she rolls her window down and scowls at me in pity. Ashamed, I turn my tired eyes away, and hope that my worn-out uniform would magically look new.

She never asks to sleep over again.

I am 10 years old

I fall asleep on a couch at the Goodwill.

A loud plop, and metal clattering startle me awake.

It is a girl dropping off boxes of Princess themed bedroom decorations for donation.

I look at her and recognize the familiar eyes and freeze.

She stares back at me and drills shame into my skull once again

She leaves without uttering a word, but her disgusted eyes paint a whole novel of her thoughts.

I retreat to my parents who are standing by the door, with a smile too big to fit their jaded eyes.


As I grew older, and older.

I came to realize that

While my eyes were closed

My mother’s strained to keep hers open, as if she were holding an entrance to a collapsing cave

While my mind was at rest

My father’s raced infinite marathons in between earning good grades for this week’s quiz and earning enough money for this week’s dinner

Till now, I cannot comprehend how they were able to keep their systems running with broken circuits

But I do know that the electricity that runs through their blood is a vision of a greater future.

This power and drive to push beyond limits unknown, to venture to foreign lands owning nothing but a heavy accent, love, and a vision for more.

A goal to rise up as the roses from the cracked concrete

An aspiration to provide a life for me that they never had

To explore the land of opportunity, although beginning with little opportunity in the first place.

This energy buzzes and hums inside my mother’s eyes and my father’s mind.

Constantly thinking about me, about them, and about us.

Gears restlessly whirring and pounding through late nights and early mornings, an unstoppable source pumping from their very hearts.

Zapping their brains every time tears fell, arguments broke, or will-power evaporated

To remind them of their vision, and their potential to be taller and higher from where they started.

It took me a while to understand this,

but now

I am 18

It is 6:30.

I rise out my own bed and  walk the floors of a house built upon heavy accents, love, and a vision for more.

I pass by the sound of my parents sleeping peacefully behind their bedroom door.

I grab boxes of worn out school clothes, slightly yellowed at the collars, and withered at the end of the skirts.

I drive up to the Goodwill donation center and see a young boy in hand-me-down uniform resting upon an ancient leather ottoman blanketed in dust.

His mother is wearing both a shirt and smile two sizes too big


I smile back at the boy and his mother and say hello.

I am 18

I drive back home and pass the same little boy and his mother waiting for the Metro Bus. His mother is holding two Goodwill Bags, and he is holding on to her hand tightly with sleepy eyes.

I roll down the window and wave,

They remember me and wave back, but the bus comes and disrupts our short greetings

I am 18

I learn that that little boy is my younger brother’s friend.

He comes over to play one day and is obviously fascinated by video games and Lego bricks.

My younger brother asks him if he too can come over to his home one of these days,

The little boy hesitates to answer, so I step in and offer snacks. He looks relieved, hoping that my younger brother will forget.

I am 18

And I live and breathe to see the end of the days where every child can proudly have their other friends come over to play

I yearn for the day where every immigrant family can be just as lucky as mines

I awake and am humbled to hear the sounds of my parents’ well-deserved rest

I greet days with a buzzing “hello” coming from the thudding energy in my chest

I shoot out of my bed to the sweet sound of my alarm

I arise looking forward to gently roll my brother out of his race car themed bedroom

They say I inherited my mother’s eyes and my father’s mind,

but I like to say that I inherited their hearts.

Their loud, humming, powerful, hearts

Repairing broken circuits, burning boundary lines, and projecting the brightness of the world ahead.

This energy buzzes and hums inside my blood.

Constantly thinking about them, about us.

Gears restlessly whirring and pounding through late nights of studying, to early mornings of classes, an unstoppable source beating from my very chest

Zapping my brain every time tears fell, arguments broke, or will-power evaporated

To remind me of their vision, my vision, and the true fact that one can have the potential to be taller and higher from where they started before.

This poem is about: 
My family
My community


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