I”ll never forget when I was 8 years old she taught me how to fight.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
My mom left the room and came back a little later with some Ovaltine. “Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s all your fault.”
“No it isn’t! Kevin Jameson is just a show off and I only challenged him because I was scared he was going to throw Chen’s book out the bus window.”
“You challenged him to what?”
“I said I knew karate and that I was going to beat him up tomorrow at the bus stop.” At this point, I burst into tears. “I wish I were dead!”
“Don’t say that! This is what you do.”
I’m not going to tell you the rest of this story about how I hilariously defeated a 5th grader because, in retrospect, instead of a triumphant story about a tiny Asian girl standing up to a bully, it sounds a little like me bullying and psychologically destroying a terrified kid. But the point is my mom always had my back.
Losing my mom to lung cancer last fall (she never even smoked!) was like losing a lung myself- I’d never really thought about what it’d be like to lose her but now she’s gone sometimes it can get hard to breathe. After years of doctors and hospitals, sometimes you don’t remember there was anything else, even though there were actually 23 years of being a normal rambunctious mother-daughter duo. So for Mother’s Day, just the happy stuff:
Because I can be really lazy and neglectful in a sleep-on-a-mattress-for-years-without-getting any-furniture kind of way, my mom always worried I wasn’t taking care of myself properly, so she got me different housekeepers and set up every room and apartment I’ve lived in (except she’s never been to my NYC apartment, which is why it’s such a mess and I’m still living out of boxes despite having moved to NYC over a year ago). She talked about me at length to these housekeepers- about how I worked so hard I didn’t have time to do laundry, how much she hoped I’d find a good boyfriend (a nice, steady, mature boyfriend from someplace wholesome like Iowa, who wasn’t too brainy and introverted or our kids would have autism because I was already rather introverted, someone from a good family whose love for his mother was surpassed only by his love of Jesus).
She cooked me so much food, always leaving me with a fully stocked fridge and freezer. My favorite food was food she made me, but I never learned to make it. When she wasn’t cooking, she was traveling. She has been everywhere. New Zealand was one of her favorites while Dubai was one of her least favorites.
My mom’s mom died when my mom was really young, so my mom worried about being a good mother to me, wanting me to avoid her mistakes, therefore I should do everything she said. For example when I told her I was thinking about getting a dog, she manipulated my friends into telling me how great a cat would be, resulting in informative calls from mitri about his cat. Later, when I told my mom I was worried about leaving my cat alone when I went to London, she came to Chicago between rounds of chemo to watch my cat Mimi. This is a photo my mom sent me of Mimi sitting on her lap:
Mom, even when I was mortified by your irrationality and emotions, I was always secretly proud of you. Even when you were being completely crazy, you were caring and charming. Because of you, and because you were never afraid of anything, I don’t fear a single thing. Even though there were times when I really could not stand you and I usually forgot about Mother’s Day and stuff like that, I really miss you.