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Can we remember, reflect and not resent?


 

REMEMBER


April 29


It’s 8:00 am and I walked down to the kitchen this morning hearing loud laughter from my mom. She is 82 years old, cackling on Facetime with someone in Việt Nam.


She sees me and says “Con Bo muốn chào chị” - Bo (my nickname at home) wants to say Hi to you”.


I don’t. I’m in my bathrobe with a hair turban. I am barely awake. I shake my head.

Mom shoots me a dirty look. So I walk over to the phone.


“Chào chị Vân, chị khỏe không? - Hi Chi Van, how are you?” “Vy và Ngọc cũng khỏe? - Vy and Ngoc are also well?”


After that, I walked away to make some coffee.


Chị Van starts talking about all the events happening in Việt Nam for April 30.

Mom responds. She says in Việt Nam you guys celebrate this day. In America, we mourn this day.


She doesn’t say it with any anger. It’s more of a matter of fact tone.


In Việt Nam April 30 is celebrated as ‘Reunification Day’, a day when the country reunited and gained independence.


Mom then proceeds with her storytelling. About the day the Communist arrived at our house. Ran-sacked it, taking everything. Mom had to go begging to borrow money and food from our relatives. Some denied her, not sharing what they had. To this day she will never forget that.


It was all too much for me for 8:00 am. Too much trauma for a Saturday morning. I got my coffee and went upstairs and closed the door.


 

REFLECT


April 30


This time of year always triggers a lot of emotions in my family. Growing up, it was a day of visiting the Vietnam War memorial and talking about losing our country to the Communist.

Tracey at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC
Tracey at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC

A time when rampant poverty, starvation and illnesses spread like wildflowers. A time when you had to fend for your life, lived under fear and no one could be trusted.


Forty-eight years later, I am reminded to continue to remember this day. I was raised to never forget this part of history. A day that has left such a huge imprint in my parents’ lives, that even in their 80s, they remember it so vividly.






 

RESENT OR NOT

April 30 is a day I honor, not because of what I have lost. But it’s about what my parents have lost.


I often get asked in interviews if I think the South Vietnamese flag will continue to be honored decades from now. My answer is probably yes. Even if our parents’ generation has passed, I do believe that people in our communities will carry it forward.


But I have to wonder if it’s for the right reasons. My parents say they love the country but they resent the government. I guess there is a distinction.


But how do we move forward if we can’t let go of the pass? How can our parents heal if they still hold onto such hatred and fear? Can I blame them? I myself did not live through what they have lived through. Do I have the right to judge?


These are questions that many people of my generation grapple with because we grew up in this hybrid state of past and present. Trying to assimilate and navigate our own course and narratives, but constantly being reminded of our parents’ struggles.


Then I look at today's younger generations, both in America and in Việt Nam, and I see that it’s just another day in history for them. That they don’t carry this same weight on their shoulders. And I am happy about this. But how do I explain that in Vietnamese to my mom without triggering something else? Perhaps I never can.


My wish through the work of Vietnamese Boat People is to preserve and honor the stories of our diaspora community; it is not to carry forward resentment. It is to understand the lived experiences of our family members, so that we can reconcile the gaps and the misunderstandings in our relationships with them. And hopefully provides us some healing and comfort in the process.

 

Tracey and her mom
Me and Mom

Tracey Nguyễn Mang is the founder of Vietnamese Boat People (VBP) podcast and nonprofit. Established in 2018, VBP's mission to preserve and carry forward the stories of the Vietnamese diaspora community. The organization seeks to educate and inspire listeners, empower intergenerational dialogue and connect people through stories of the human spirit.


This is a photo of her and her mom at a family wedding. Connect with her on Instagram.




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