A love letter to the women who raised me

By Jazmin Garrett

As I bustle around my Los Angeles apartment cleaning up or making myself a meal, you video call me from Tennessee, the place I was born and raised to call home. The place you were brought to 33 years ago with only five of your nine children. 

Grandmother, or Mae as we call you, most of our conversations now consist of you checking in on my well-being, just as you do with your four children in Laos. I am sorry that I’ve become another long-distance phone call for you, but I also want to thank you for allowing me to be. What a privilege it is to live by choice, to do as I please, be what I want, and live where I want. I didn’t know what it was like to live in a home without you until I moved away to college. You have been my caretaker, my roommate, friend, supporter, and cheerleader since the very beginning. 

When I visit home our hours together are limited to the ones you have after your shift. Most people consider their mom to be a super mom, but there are moments when I watch you and know that you are beyond super. I witness you living a life you probably never fathomed as you crossed the Mekong as a child: three children, a husband, a dog, a comfortable suburban home. Mom, you take care of us including Mae. You bring laughter and joy to our lives. You push me, you motivate me, and you support me in ways that I don’t think I could ever fully express my gratitude for. You’ve given me a life where I have the choice to pursue my interests, take trips to my dream destinations, and study the topics that I want. 

Although both of your experiences are not mine, they are often what I reflect on when I think of where the roots of our family’s history begins. These roots could only grow from the seeds that you two worked hard to sow and tend to over the last three decades. I know it wasn’t easy resettling in a new country as refugees, living in government housing, navigating the school system, learning a new language, and balancing the preservation of our culture while adjusting to a new one. Your resilience through these challenges has led us to a time where we are able to blossom and flourish.

Whether or not you have the time to reflect on how much you’ve done, and continue to do, for our family I hope you know that you have inspired all of us to strive for the best versions of ourselves. Growing up you’ve both instilled the importance and value of family in me and this has carried into my value for community. You’ve taught me that there is no “me” without “we”. Since I was a child I have had such a strong sense of pride for my bi-racial and bi-cultural identity as someone who is Lao American.

I could never tell you enough how you two are my motivation for the life that I live. From the work I do, to my morals and values, to the way I care for and love others, I think of you and how you have been exemplary models for me. For 23 years and counting, I celebrate the major milestones and accomplishments that I reach, but I will always be sure to give credit to the women who raised me.

Jazmin Garrett is SEARAC’s Field Associate. To contact Jazmin, e-mail jazmin@searac.org.