By Nguyen Lee, Reporter
A lot of Vietnamese women, when they first come to the United States, typically earn some kind of cosmetology license. This is pretty noticeable today when you go to a nail salon in the United States. The Vietnamese-dominated nail salon business slowly became and continues to be a kinship network that new Viet immigrants can depend on to provide them with a job. My mom was one of those immigrants. This piece is a bit of appreciation to my mom and her struggles in feeding me.
Whenever someone comments on how soft my hands are, I think about my mom. I imagine her hands, how they’re cracked and dry from the chemicals she uses when she’s working, how they’re so rough from use and wear. I see her put Vaseline and cream on her hands as if her peeling skin would heal overnight before she has to go through another day of handling powders and acetone to make others’ hands pretty.
When I was young, I remember going to the nail salon she worked at. I would see her meticulously put tiny pearls and crystals on other people’s nails. That same day she’d go home and while she washed the dishes, I would hear her hiss as the warm water seeped into the distressed fissures of her skin.
“Your hands are soft because you don’t even help me wash the dishes.” This was four years ago. I do the dishes now.
My hands are soft because of her rough hands. They’re soft and the only wear that they have experienced is from the chaffing of pens and pencils against my index finger.
Her rough hands enabled me to write stories, to solve equations, and draw doodles on my notes.
My hands are only ever dry because of the weather.
I only ever hurt them by accident.
My mom’s hands fed me, bathed me, and raised me.
Her hands that held me when I was young.
Her hands that are paying for education.
So I’m roughening my hands up just a little bit with my pen now so her hands can have time to heal later.