An Inherited Longing

Painting of women approaching Burmese temples
Bagan (1991) by Paw Oo Thett


Dear Reader,

My daughter is an early riser. She wakes half-past five most mornings, crawling in between my husband and me to sit and stare at still and sleeping souls. This happens most mornings, and many times I pretend to still be asleep so I may catch those moments she thinks she’s alone.

Silent, smiling, cooing, with eyes of anticipation waiting for us to wake.

When I wrote Giving Alms, I thought a lot about generational mathematics. Of how many mothers and fathers came before me, of generational trauma, and of their unfulfilled dreams. I wrote for the women who came before me and the stories that I would only know re-tellings of. Imagining myself in the life of my ancestors, of a world I did not know of but had inherited in stories. I often wondered if they prayed for me, the child they had never known—a prayer shared amongst generations. Perhaps the thought would only exist at the whispered end of a prayer.

But in those quiet mornings of feigning sleep hidden from a toddler’s gaze, those prayers I wondered about chime wildly. With all certainty, it is an inherited longing, a generational love, of generations of hope. Years after writing Giving Alms, I see these stories differently. They are not only of deep and buried trauma and strife, but of a love that I did not know I would also inherit.

With birth, we are handed immeasurable joys, relief, sorrows, an undeniable ability to long for the future, and fear the end fiercely. Somehow knowing that endings have come, time and time again brings ease to an otherwise anxious existence.

So dear reader, during these uncertain times, let yourself gaze in a mirror in the cool evening light. Forget how every day feels unprepared, your mind unready for the next wave that will roll over you. In that opaque reflection, collect those hopes that your mothers and fathers before have sown for you, and hold in yourselves that you are a culmination of those many prayers.

With love always,
Khin Chan Myae Maung

(From September 12, 2020)