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To the Mother of a Wanderer

• • •

He was tired. He sat down. I sat down beside him. And, after a little silence, he spoke again:

“The stars are beautiful, because of a flower that cannot be seen.”

I replied, “Yes, that is so.” And, without saying anything more, I looked across the ridges of sand that were stretched out before us in the moonlight.

“The desert is beautiful,” the little prince added.

“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well…” (The Little Prince)

• • •

Dear Mother,

Although I like to think myself as an bright-eyed wanderer, in the tradition of Jack Kerouac , I’m really just a spoiled, self-centered little girl. You’ve always been the one who exacerbates my complex by being overly generous: helping me find my cell-phone, fielding a dollar-a-minute calls when my bank card isn’t working, staying up past your bedtime on Skype to ensure I can make faces at our cats, two thousand miles from home, exhausted and lonely on the back of a rickety bus bumping along towards the south of Vietnam.

Perhaps you are kind because you realise that, beneath my confident facade and brash words, is just a girl that wants more than she can ever possibly have, chasing cures for restlessness that only leave a bitter after-taste.

You know this, already, but you are so kind.

• • •

You are so kind – and there has never been anything I could not tell you. I have always wanted to share everything with you.

When I was nineteen, I went to Paris for the first time. I went alone, in the early spring.  I wandered in grand alleyways, admired the sprawling brassieres and peered at the fantastical gourmet displays glittering through the shop windows, as if in a dream. In those three days, I accidentally called your phone number two times, to tell you about the color of the macarons and the way butter melts on a freshly baked baguette. It was only until I heard the robotic voice of the operator, a stream of clipped French from which I could only distinguish the name of the cheap mobile operator a purchased a sim card from – that I forgot that I wasn’t able to call you.

When I was twenty-two, I went to Sri Lanka for the first time. In a fit of rage over a round of frustrating finals, I booked the ticket too early and had to depend on you to run around the shops picking up last-minute toiletries as I packed furiously at home. And suddenly, there I was – at the beach in the southern Sri Lankan town of Galle, watching the turquoise water well up over the sand, hearing the dry leaves of the palms whistle in the afternoon wind. I stayed in that hippie beach town for two weeks. In those two weeks, I accidentally called you four times.

• • •

I once had a dream that I called you, and you didn’t answer. I called and called and called, but I heard only the dial tone. I ran through the streets of Paris, tearing at the tablecloths of sidewalk cafes, hammering frantically at stained glass windows. I ran through the lush beaches of Sri Lanka, I swam the entire ocean, waiting for you to pick up the phone. You didn’t answer. And even as the crowds of the glamorous and beautiful swarmed around me, lips red and eyes bright, I thought –  How alone I am in the world!

• • •

Although it would have been physically impossible anyway, mother, I’m glad that I never lived a single second on this planet before I met you. I’m glad that I have always had a best friend. I’ve been late for who knows how many appointments because I’ve stopped to sit on your bed before heading out, heels in hand, to talk about something that’s been weighing on my heart. We end up talking for hours, and whatever friend or appointment or engagement I fades in the wake of  the way we fit effortlessly into each others’ spaces, of how you know me.

In the midst of a life characterised by constant moves and train rides, new faces and new places—it is so good to be known, to be truly known by someone.

• • •

I know you worry about me, I do. I worry about you too, when I am not near you – but what in the world can surpass the capacity of a mother’s heart, for both love and distress?  But I want you to know that in the midst of this big, bad world, you are my well. So don’t worry about me, mother – because as long as you are in it, the world cannot help but be beautiful. And even when I cannot hear your voice, or press my cheek against yours, you are my flower amongst the stars. So don’t worry about your little wanderer, mother – because as long as you are in it, the world cannot help be but kind.

I love you more than all the wells in the world and all the flowers in the fields and all the stars in the sky.

Your Daughter The Wanderer


  1. Kemin says

    ‘Although it would have been physically impossible anyway, mother, I’m glad that I never lived a single second on this planet before I met you’
    This sentence is so beautiful Stephanie.

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Thank you my darling 🙂 Happy Chinese New Year to you and hope you are enjoying your travels!

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