maureleus 2 / 2 Oct 26, 2017 #1my mother - holding the sky on her backFor the five first years of my life, I knew only the dirt roads and rice paddies of Wenzhou, China, oblivious to my parents' struggles of which I was the cause. My mother was twenty-one when she gave birth to me. At the time, her home in America was nothing more than the grey basement of another immigrant, while I lived carefree with my grandparents, my neighbor's mad dog, the monsoons that turned the roads into rivers, and the drunk uncle who tricked me into drinking alcohol that he poured out a soda bottle.I returned to America to find my parents managing a tiny clothing factory in a rundown red brick building in Corona, Queens. I loved the factory. I loved the smell of the greasy sewing machines. I loved playing with the loose pieces of cloth and plastic hangers that littered the dirty beige floor. I pretended that I was a knight: the cloth my armor and the hanger my sword. I pretended that my mother was locked away in a stone tower that had only a single, barred window. There, leaning against the black iron, my mother sighed with exhaustion. She constantly peered out the window and looked up at the brilliant blue sky.I was eight when the factory closed. My mother soon found work, but my father only found a gambling addiction. In order to pull my father's weight, she started a side business making accessories. Some nights, squatting over piles of metal and fake leather, my little brother and I prepared the ingredients which my mother used to cook up tantalizing purses and wallets. She gave us a few cents for each thing we prepared so that my brother and I would have money to spend. Other nights, we took turns trying to relieve her fatigue by kneading her knotted muscles with what strength our little hands had.I took away what I could from my mother. I was nine when I took away her grimy dishes, the dusty cabinets, the putrid garbage. I was twelve when I took away the responsibility of taking care of my brother. Each afternoon, I rushed over to Thomas Jefferson Elementary to walk him home. I tutored him and made sure that he finished his homework. Like my mother did for me, I made sure that he never went hungry. But it wasn't until I was fourteen that I learned to take away the heaviest responsibility of all: my own responsibility. With each B- that I brought home, I put a few more pounds on my mother's shoulders. I was so busy trying to pull some of my mother's weight that I forgot to pull my own. So I put down the remote control and picked up a textbook.If the sky fell down tomorrow, my mother would simply pick it up. She was Atlas, holding the sky on her back. She taught me that no matter how dire a situation may seem, there will always be a way out. It may take one week, one year, or for her, one lifetime, but at the end of the tunnel is a new beginning. For years, she carried the burden of being the sole provider for four people, yet my mother's unwavering determination and hard work kept us from going hungry. I can only hope to repay her, a few cents at a time.