Personal Column: Hidden tales within feet

Senior reflects on lessons learned from mother before beginning college journey


Image recreated by Meherina Khan

The odd thing about my mother is that her feet always smell like lavender.

Every night before I go to sleep, I curl up beside my mother’s feet with a bottle of Nivea lotion and massage her feet, sealing the cracks along her heels from a long day’s work. Whereas many children were read nursery rhymes and fairy tales as a nighttime tradition, my nightly routine since I was five has consisted of studying the tales written in my mother’s feet. Each crevice tells a story of pain and the many obstacles she had to cross to stand where she is today. Now, as I trace the valleys and plains of her feet, I can see the road she’s traveled and how hard she continues to work for the sake of her children.

My mother is an immigrant from Bangladesh, a country marked by its small size and rampant poverty due to its enormous population. As the youngest of 12 siblings from a prominent family, she was the heart of her village with her contagious laughter and silly antics. But after the death of her father at a young age, she and her family were cast into poverty. Some days, two meals were a blessing, while on other nights she went to sleep hungry. She walked five miles to school every morning, wearing the same uniform each day. She didn’t have enough money to buy the required books in school and instead had to look off of the notes of friends. But despite her hardships, my mother counted her blessings and continued to be a beacon of happiness during a dark time. Even today, she continues to face life with a positive attitude. She taught me the power of optimism.

My mother never let us know that we were poor. Besides the occasional part-time job, my mother spent most of her time at home, always on her feet either cooking, cleaning, or chasing after us to make sure we completed our homework. Though we were never able to afford a house, my mom always custom-decorated our apartments to make us comfortable in the small space we had. She would often eat less if it meant we had more to eat, and she traded opportunities to replace her worn out sandals for little trinkets for my siblings and I. My mother masked her sacrifices with scoldings every time we questioned why she wasn’t eating much. On days when she was sick, she would still force herself up in the morning to get us prepared for school, and on days that we were ill, she would stay up into the late hours to help subdue our fevers.

But the greatest lesson my mother taught me was to be humble and look out for others before myself. After our weekly visits to the mosque, she would take us downtown to the local homeless shelter and have us help her deliver her handmade goody bags of food. We didn’t have much, but my mother always made sure that we helped out others in need, whether it was with temporary shelter in our little apartment or home-cooked food. What she didn’t have in money, she made up with the bounty of her heart. When any family member or friend had an emergency, she was the first to respond and the last to return home.

Though my mother is only a size seven in shoes, she has left a large impression on the type of person I would like to be. Through her humility and selflessness, she has taught me that money is not a requirement to give back to the world if you have a heart of gold.

To this day, I live by an ancient Islamic proverb: “For children, heaven on Earth lies beneath their mother’s feet.” And I enjoy taking care of my mother, my piece of heaven, every night.