Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Motherly Mother

Growing up, I watched a lot of TV (just as any all-American child should). In the summers, my schedule revolved around re-runs of Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days. If I woke up early enough, say around 10:30 am, I would be lucky enough to catch episodes of I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched. With my bowl of Lucky Charms, I opened each and every new summer day with these characters and waited to see what predicaments they would need to get themselves out of.

Later in life, while waiting for a show I really wanted to watch to come on, I learned to fill gaps in TV time with more modern sitcoms. Both funny in a light-hearted way to the audience and overbearing and widely annoying to the whole cast of characters, sitcom mothers were always of a strange interest to me.

I wanted my mom to be a sitcom mom. One who stays home and tells me to put on a coat when it's cold outside and bakes cakes and brownies for me and my friends so as to butter us up and be granted the privilege of listening to us gossip about who the cute boys at school are and which ones we hoped would ask us to the next school dance. But instead my mom worked a varying range of shifts -- from swing shift to graveyard shift -- and in her absence she left plates of cut up, peeled fruit on the kitchen table for us to eat after school. Covered bowls and plates would also be left on the table for us to heat up for dinner. And always the bowls were covered with plates, never with aluminum foil or saran wrap.

Anything that would lend even the most insignificant amount to increasing my cool-factor was forbidden. Wearing make-up was not allowed, dating boys was out of the picture and when I was caught eyeing wide-leg jeans (back when that was cool) during back-to-school shopping, I was told those were for gang-bangers which I was not and which she would not want anyone to confuse me for, so I was not allowed to wear or even eye such garments. As an alternative, my mom graciously allowed me to wear "loose-fit" jeans which I got in one size bigger to try to re-create the wide-leg, baggy look. They instead made me look like I was wearing hand me downs which I still needed to grow into, but I thought they made me look with it.

Somewhere, somehow, over the years my mom has changed. She hasn't become the sitcom mom who lives next door like in Everybody Loves Raymond, coming over to meddle at inopportune times, but I appreciate my mom because she has become so mellow and so unmeddlesome. She worries about just the right things and voices concerns on such a manageable scale -- all things that I can handle.

The other night she called to chat and asked what I had eaten for dinner. I told her I had packaged ramen and she let out a small gasp and asked how I had the strength to go to work in the mornings if I'm eating ramen for dinner. I've tried telling her what I've done in the past. Market research and copywriting are somewhat hard concepts for me to explain in Khmer, so with my new job, one which I struggle to explain with a concise answer when people ask at parties, I have not yet tried to explain. I do explain that I am well-fed at work and that I eat all 3 meals there. She says ok and seems relieved that I am not wont to starve to death, weak and without energy to type in my cube. I sometimes wonder if my mom secretly thinks I am a field worker.

[It should be noted that within this conversation, the topic of Alan and I moving in together came up and still more time and concern was spent discussing the fact that I was eating ramen for dinner.]

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