The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years
ago in Shanghai for a ridiculous sum. This bird, boasted the market vendor, was once a
duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose, and now look! -- It is too
beautiful to eat.
Then the woman and the swan sailed across an
ocean many thousands of li wide, stretching their necks towards America. On her journey,
she cooed to the swan: "In America I will have a daughter just like me. But over
there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband's belch. Over
there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect American
English. And over there she will always be too full to swallow any sorrow. She will know
my meaning, because I will give her this swan-- a creature that became more than was hoped
But when she arrived at the new country, the
immigration officials pulled her swan away from her, leaving the old woman fluttering her
arms and with only one swan feather for a memory. And then she had to fill out so many
forms she forgot why she had come and what she had left behind.
Now the woman was old. And she had a daughter
who grew up speaking only English and swallowing more Coca-Cola than sorrow. For a long
time now the woman had wanted to give her daughter the single feather and tell her,
"This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my
good intentions." And she waited, year after year, for the day she could tell her
daughter this in perfect American English.