I’m grateful for my immigrant mom allowing me to live her dreams

It was a typical workday. After teaching my ESL class in the morning, I went home to spend time with my 10-month-old son. It was also not a typical day, as I was anticipating a phone call from the vice president of our college. Either I would get the full-time position or I would not. I was putting my son in his car seat when my phone rang. I rushed to answer it, afraid that I would miss the call once again, as I had earlier on in the day while I had been teaching. 

I will never forget what the vice president said: we have chosen you for the NCESL Instructor and Technology Coordinator position. This was back in 2019, and I have replayed this scene in my head many times. Yet, there was one detail that I glanced over, a detail that is now symbolic for me: my mother was present with me when I got the phone call. 

As I think about this years later, I cannot help but recognize that my accomplishments are thanks to my mother. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to graduate high school and get bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Her sacrifices have afforded me numerous opportunities and allowed me to reach career milestones that I have always dreamed of. Many children of immigrants can also attribute their success to their mothers.  

As a little girl, people would describe me as “feisty,” “independent,” “ambitious” and a “go-getter,” and the word “feminist” was thrown around nonchalantly. You would find me with a book at all times, and as I started writing more and more, people would say that I had a way with words. This, I had always believed, was the way I was born, until a few months ago when my husband told me about a conversation he had with my mom.

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She told him about her life before she married my father. She used to read books with a flashlight in her bed, not being able to stop until she got to the next page and eventually finished the book. She also told him how she loved working her day job in an office and going home to her second job, sewing clothes. I grew up with her storytelling about her life in Armenia, often when we cooked or baked together. She has always been able to embellish details to get your attention, to get you to ask more questions, and to describe a scene so vividly that it transports you back to Armenia.

The more I reflect, the more I see how my love for reading and storytelling and my drive are not simply things I was born with but that I inherited from my mom. Like many children of immigrants, I am living my immigrant mom’s dreams. I am able to have a career and financial stability thanks to her sacrifices.

Like many immigrant moms, my mom is a warrior. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

My mom immigrated to the United States at the age of 38 and put her dreams aside to help build a better future for her children. She emigrated from Armenia with three young children to Los Angeles, leaving her dreams floating in the air to be a stay-at-home mom to her little girls. After attending ESL classes at a local community college (and once getting stuck in the parking lot when her car broke down in the pouring rain), she would go back home and cook for us. We had a home cooked meal every single day. Whenever she picked us up from school, she always had a snack prepared for the drive back home. She attended every parent conference and open house. She also encouraged us to pursue our dreams with small pep talks whenever we got nervous and doubted ourselves. She was there to greet me with food and cut-up fruit whenever I finished work or visited home from college. She did all this with no complaints and without a hint of sadness, despite living far away from her sisters and father, who lived in France, Russia and Armenia. Since moving to the U.S., she has had no immediate family nearby. Like many immigrant moms, my mom is a warrior. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Ays dzerkere` mor dzerkere,
Այս ձեռքերը` մո՜ր ձեռքերը,
These hands, a mother’s hands,

Hinavurts ou nor dzerkere…
Հինավուրց ու նո՜ր ձեռքերը…
These old and new hands…

Incher ases, vor chen arel ays dzerkere…
Ինչե՜ր ասես, որ չեն արել այս ձեռքերը…
Whatever do you want to say
That hasn’t been done by these hands?

Ekek aysor menk hambyurenk vordiabar…
Եկեք այսօր մենք համբուրենք որդիաբար…
Let us today, as children do,
kiss these very hands…

–Payruyr Sevak

Throughout my life, I have felt an overwhelming feeling of guilt. My mother had to sacrifice her dreams for me to reach mine. Yet now that I am a mother myself, I have gone from feeling guilty to feeling gratitude. I have to constantly remind myself that this is the life she wanted for me. She envisioned this future for me, and she is proud of where I am. 

I can also use the example she has set for my own children. I consciously make sacrifices for my kids in order to see them happy, help them become more financially stable than me and afford them the opportunities I never had.

I can show my appreciation to my mom through the time I spend with her. I can also buy her gifts, such as a special set of coffee cups to drink her Armenian coffee!

My accomplishments are, in fact, my mother’s accomplishments. On this mother’s day, I would like to say to my mom, “Happy Mother’s Day. You have achieved the biggest accomplishment of all: creating a brighter future for your daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and future generations.”

Susanna Semerdzhyan

Susanna Semerdzhyan

Susanna Semerdzhyan is an Armenian-American writer based in Los Angeles. She is also an ESL Instructor. She has a B.A. in Linguistics and M.A. in TESOL. She speaks English, Armenian and French. Drawing on her experience of being an Armenian-American, a descendent of Armenian Genocide survivors, a child of immigrants and a first-generation college graduate, her poetry is about identity and touches on themes of multiculturalism, multilingualism, empowerment, authenticity, discovery, confidence, community and belonging. You can find her writing in her newsletter, “You’re a Masterpiece" and on Instagram @suzyspoet.

1 Comment

  1. A touching tribute to the sacrifices immigrant parents make for their children’s futures. This heartfelt reflection celebrates the resilience and love of immigrant families.

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