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How do your parents show love?

We can’t choose our family, and that’s what makes their love unconditional, enduring, and complicated. It is what makes it so easy to wave impatiently at the fruit platter placed before us by our mothers, and impossible to walk away after a heated fight with our fathers about presidential politics. Parental love goes unspoken in so many ways. In this issue, we’ll explore love by how we’re first introduced to it: through our parents.


“Because that’s what mothers do. They wait. They stand still until their children belong to someone else.”

— Ocean Vuong



“My mom had tears rolling down her face as the doctors wheeled me into the OR for a simple procedure.”

She cried with me in the car a year after my dog had passed away. She sends me finals study packages when I am away at college. She takes care of my tension headaches even though she herself suffers from migraines. She now tells me that I am too hard on myself. That is how I know she loves me.


When I first heard the Arabic word Ya’aburnee (you bury me), meaning that you would rather die first because you cannot imagine life without the other person, I first thought of my mother. That is how I know I love her.

––– Filipino-American, 21

Park City, Utah

bitter pill

sit up straight. find your spine, stop slouching.

fear admiration respect

one of these things is not like the others

she picks gingerly at my split ends

mixing egg yolk

in a teaspoon of honey

but finds white strands instead

no wonder your back hurts.

she conjugates my shortcomings into her shame

remittance for scrubbing cigarette smoke off my back

the sins of my father

she lapped up his vomit like a dog

now she clears her throat to keep it down

you see this is why we take our shoes off inside:

never leave stains on the welcome mat

i gave you all my best parts

but you look just like him.

trauma has facial recognition--

don’t let it smell your uncertainty

auction off your insecurities

to the highest bidder

and if all else fails

he taught you cheap vodka

kills 99%–––

just like hand sanitizer

and ignorance is the scapegoat

why don’t you ever listen to me?

apologies are her second language

like trying to write the correct date after a new year

but cross regulation is not sufficient for temporal transitions

if you sleep more you can still grow.

she marinates ox bones into brine

an ancient recipe that tastes like brackish compromise

i swallow it

––– Athena, Chinese-American, 22

Providence, RI


“And I wondered if my mother loved me, or if she loved Yale.”

“After I started school at Yale, my mother became obsessed with helping my younger sister attend an “elite” university too. Every night, she scoured for competitions for my sister and selective summer camps and programs she could attend. My mother fabricated a narrative for my sister–––starting a nonprofit in her name and hiring tutoring to write essays for her–––and during winter breaks at home, the two of them barraged me with questions about my Common App and past extracurricular activities. To them, I was a resource. And I wondered if my mother loved me, or if she loved Yale.


At dinner one night, I asked my mother, “Would you love Annie if she didn’t get into an Ivy League school?” My mother replied, “We’re going to try our best. Aim for Ivy.” She hadn’t answered the question directly and somehow, a part of me didn’t want to know. Regardless, she loved me, a part of me.”

––– Chinese-American, 22

New Haven, CT


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