by Lenna Choi from Irvine, California in United States

Love in a Bento Box: The Art of Raising Humans

For Mom, my hero


At 5:30am, when quiet darkness cloaks the world, 

Mom is awakened by the accusatory stare 

of our giant, 65 pound husky, Heeya

“It’s bathroom time, ma’am.” 

Her eyes are bullets

So if Mom turns away to 

burrow deeper into her cloud of exhaustion 

Heeya bats Mom’s face with one giant white paw

If Mom still refuses to heed her furry alarm clock 

Heeya jumps onto the bed to press 

her whole 65 pounds onto Mom’s body 

Places one accusatory wet nose on Mom’s neck

Staring bullets

As she puffs angry hot air onto her neck


Mom hobbles up, then straggles across the cold wooden floor

Our triplet team of dogs panting clouds in her wake

They trail her like happy ducklings to their playground

Tongues out, eyes dancing, to caper and lounge while

Mom, yawning in glasses and her disheveled bun,

Shuffles into the kitchen to hum the stove to life

While chopping scallions, kimchi, and ham 

for our daily bento boxes

She beats freshly-cracked eggs, sugar, 

and a splash of milk with wooden chopsticks

Eyes crinkled and eyebrows furrowed 

The pan sizzles as Mom rolls the omelet into a golden brown parcel

Crisp on the outside and gooey inside

Then cuts the omelet into neat squares

She slices a sausage lengthwise part way up 

so they curl up like octopus legs when pan fried

Mom rolls freshly steamed white and brown sticky rice 

into various-sized flat circles

To create the body and limbs of teddy bears or snowmen

She places each work of art into a tin bento box

Then tops her creation with a sunny-side-up egg


So that later, at the school lunch tables, 

when I shake my magic bento box like a foodie tambourine

the runny yolk spills all over the 

hot steamed rice, sweet omelets, spicy kimchi, 

crispy ham, and savory sausage octopus.

At lunch, I am an alien to my peers

who stare at my UFO bento box and 

gaze suspiciously at my lunch

A few years ago, I would have hunched my shoulders,

lowered my gaze, and quickly stuffed my half-eaten bento box in my backpack

The fear of what other people thought of me devoured my life

Until one day, after many conversations 

I decided I didn’t care what people thought of me

Because Mom taught me if I do, it erases who I am

For I am the sum of my differences

And from my differences bloom my strengths


In 2nd grade, Mom knew on Open House which paper was mine

It was the one riddled with red marks, B’s and A-’s

While the other kids’ papers danced with perfect 100%s

“Do you know why they have perfect scores?” Mom whispered

“Because their parents helped them.”

I stood there in a tornado of disbelief

“But one day, you will earn your own better grades.”

A few years later, I stood on my middle school stage

Giving the valedictorian’s speech

I had chosen the grit to climb my own mountain

And because of that, I learned to stick with my goals until they flowered


In the spring of 5th grade, I visited a local sports club

When I stepped through the door, the slight metal tang to the air

and suffocating humidity made me clutch my parents like a lifeline

Until I peered over Dad’s side and watched a match

I was drawn to its rapid footsteps; each slash of the sword.

It was like seeing an artist’s brush gliding over a vibrant canvas

So, seeing my eyes widen in wonder, Mom encouraged me to try this alien sport

At first, I lowered my head as no one else I knew had done it

Whenever I said, “I’m a fencer,”

People would scrunch their eyebrows and ask what I meant

I felt like an alien, but instead of letting me succumb to fear,

Mom told me a secret: “If you find our own thing, 

then it can become yours. It will make you special!”

Eventually Mom’s words flowered into truth, 

for fencing became my garden

Where I could bloom my strengths 

and yank out my weedy weaknesses


In 7th grade, Mom ejected me from the nest

She allowed me to travel alone to Germany with my coach’s wife.

I assumed she would travel with me as always

A chick beneath her Mama’s soft wing

So when she told me I would go alone 

A venomous yellow lightning bolt of fear snaked through my veins 

Until now, I had waddled behind Mom like a happy baby chick

Basking under the golden sunshine of Mom’s wing

So when Mom nudged me with her beak to the edge of the nest

An icy ink black hurricane of fear charged toward me 

As I squinched my eyes shut

“You need to practice being on your own--it’s the only way you can grow,” Mom said

At the time, I didn’t know what she meant

I thought with the passing of days I was automatically growing older and smarter

But no, Mom meant I needed to grow in grit, wisdom and open-mindedness

Which only occurs when you venture outside the nest


Esther Wojcicki once said there should be a Nobel Prize 

for parenting and teaching, 

for there is no greater service to humanity than raising good humans. 

Mom, this poem is for you.


Page created on 5/22/2022 8:14:29 PM

Last edited 5/22/2022 8:21:17 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Author Info

Lenna Choi, 18

Growing up, Lenna would constantly bicker with her younger brother and fight over the most trivial objects (one time it was an empty LEGO box, see above). Eventually, she learned the art of sharing and became best friends with said little brother. Ever since she was tiny, Lenna would observe people to figure out their stories by clues. Sometimes, she gets creative and imagines various scenarios, from ninja assassins running across the walls to puppies chatting with their masters. Lenna loves to read, whether it’s Rowling or Austen. One summer, she read almost 50 books! Lenna started fencing when she was 10 years old. From her first lesson, she knew fencing would become her passion. It has transformed her from a lanky 10-year-old to a strong, confident 17-year-old who has faced her weaknesses and emerged whole on the other side. Despite this, one of her best talents is her ability to attach metal spoons to her face. Lenna’s dream is to travel around the world and fence at the Olympics, battling her idols. Her dream is to help people through what she creates.