Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.
      from THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, by Zora Neale Hurston

Recently, when Little Miss was plagued by an ear infection, she had a high fever for days, and it reminded me of the time when I was down for the count, where my mom never left my side. Now, I may sound like I’m stereotyping but I know I’m not that far off the mark when I say that most Asian parents, at least ones from my mom’s generation, aren’t very big on PDA (no, not the mobile device, although they’re not into that either). Their idea of affection is to make sure we’re fed to the gills at every meal and to work 15-hour days just so they can afford us a life better than the one they had.

So imagine my surprise when my mom sat beside me in bed when I was eight or nine, suffering from a 104-degree fever, tenderly stroking and kissing my face, my hair, my arms, my hands, and singing me nursery rhymes she knew by heart from her schoolgirl days. Alas, the woman couldn’t carry a tune, but on that night, her voice flooded me with so much love that even in my feverish delirium, I didn’t want it to end. These moments of tenderness were so few and far between that an overt display of her affections for me that one time left an indelible mark on me that I would carry with me the rest of my life.

However, this is in stark contrast to the other not-so-warm-and-fuzzy memory of my mother, when I clearly recall a vision of her swiftly walking towards 10-year-old me when I was playing with my friends outside my school when I was supposed to be home, brandishing a rattan cane. Oh the horror! Nothing commands the obedience of a young child better than public humiliation, especially when it involves her friends. So when I saw my mom approaching me with the cane, I saw my 10 years flash before my eyes as well as the next 10 of my friends unmercifully taunting me, telling everyone about my day of shame. Now, before you go all DCFS on my mom, note that she is a product of a different time and culture, as am I, where corporal punishment was acceptable. While not my favorite memory, it was definitely one of the most memorable, for obvious reasons. Needless to say, I always got home from school on time after that.

Now that I’m at the wheels of the mamamobile, I realize that it is my turn to shape someone else’s memories.  As Little Miss’ blurry world comes into focus, and forms become words, and words into thoughts, it makes me wonder—how she will remember me? Perhaps the more important question, which will define my role in her life, is how do I want to be remembered?