This One’s for My Mama

My mama’s name is Rose, and she loves flowers. Unfortunately, she rarely had time to stop and smell the roses; she was too busy raising her three idiot sons. Instead of planting the garden of her dreams, she only had time to fill our home with artificial flowers and floral print aprons, rugs, and pillowcases.

Mama migrated from China to San Francisco in 1993, married my daddy, and gave birth to her first son (that’s me!). From that day on, everything she did was for her family. She invested all her time and energy to make sure we grew up strong and loved.

Mama and her three boys

When I was a kid, I defended my mama’s honor as much as I could. I once caught a neighborhood kid tearing up the grass in our front yard. I barked at the little rascal to get off our lawn like I was a 60 year old man with a shotgun.

Another time, we went to an arcade, and I spent over an hour at the redemption desk. I couldn’t decide which prizes were worthy of my 2000 tickets. Thirty minutes in, I told the teenage attendant behind the counter that I wanted the plush daisy toy. He scoffed, grabbed the daisy off the wall, and threw it at me.

I thought he was mocking me since boys aren’t supposed to like flowers. My toxic masculinity kicked in and I said, “This one’s for my mama, not me!”

(I later found out that he was pissed not because I wanted a flower, but because I was being so indecisive. Jokes on him, though, because I ended up returning the flower and spending another thirty minutes trying to decide on the optimal prize mix as if I were building my stock portfolio.)

Last Friday, that same little boy kissed his mama goodbye and hopped on a flight to California for his new job.

I spent my first weekend in the city of my dreams: San Francisco. I walked the slick streets under my umbrella. I skipped, no, pranced over puddles with glee.

When I reached Union Square, I found a mob of people knee deep in a swamp of flower stems and roots. It was Tulip Day, and there were once 100,000 tulips free for the picking. The event kicked off earlier that morning, so only leftovers remained.

people digging for tulips

Regardless, I rolled up my sleeves, shoved my umbrella into my backpack, and dove in. While I was digging through the scraps, I muttered a battle cry under my breath: “This one’s for my mama!”

After soiling my fingernails and drenching my clothes, I emerged victorious with four whole tulips. I sent mama a picture. “Here are some flowers for you! I miss you!”  

Roger with tulips for his mama

I start my new role at Google tomorrow, and I plan on treating every day like Tulip Day. I’m going to get my hands dirty (without playing dirty) and seize what’s mine. I’m going to seek out the colored petals and leave no stone unturned. I will make the most of this opportunity because my family sacrificed too much for me to let it go to waste. I will succeed not just for myself, but to honor the dream garden that never existed.  

Thanks for the love, mama. This one’s for you. Let’s dig in.


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