In 1993, I returned to Viet Nam for the very first time with you and your father. When the plane landed at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon, everyone on the plane stood up and cheered. Some people were in tears. It probably seems a bit silly to you now. These days, travel is easy. Twenty-four hours and you’re on the other side of the world.
But back then, when we left—when we *fled*—we never thought we’d ever be able to return. Viet Nam was everything we have ever known and loved; it was our childhood, our family, our collective histories and blood. To leave was like having to rip our hearts from our chests. We were leaving a part of ourselves behind.
To this day, nearly forty years later, I can still remember my last day in Saigon. I walked around my neighborhood, looked at the street vendors, the children, the speeding motorcyclists, the way the sunshine hits the trees outside my window. I tried to soak in every single detail that I had previously taken for granted. I wanted to hug the country to my heart because I didn’t know I would be able to return.
There was also a sense of guilt for leaving, at least for me. I should stay and help rebuild with your aunts and uncles, with my neighbors, with the rest of the country. It was my responsibility as a Vietnamese. Why should I get to leave and have freedom and liberty while they had to stay in poverty and hardship? What made me so special? It was nothing but luck. I’ve been through a lot since that day, but nothing will ever compare to the sadness and pain of leaving Viet Nam.
I understand how you feel now, but Viet Nam will always be within your reach. It’s 2014. The world is a different place. And I am just so happy and proud to have a daughter, born and raised in America, who loves Viet Nam with all the heart and soul of a Vietnamese child who’s never left. Perhaps even more because you don’t take it for granted."
something my mother said to me last February as we boarded the plane to fly back to the States(via papergramps)