Sunday, January 23, 2011

Leave it to Mama?

I've been thinking about my Mama a lot lately. I used to call her on the phone but don't do it anymore. Mama is hard of hearing, and never could get a real good handle on how the telephone worked. As with many new things, it came late in her life and never got old enough for her to be comfortable with. It took her some time and convincing to believe that she didn't have to shout into the receiver. As she got older she cried more whenever she heard me on the phone. Eventually I gave up on calling her as it became a burden to both of us. Fortunately my three siblings keep me posted on her and Dad's latests, often a mixed bag of tantrums and comics. God fortify my siblings against aging parents.

My Mama is the most quotable woman I know, often hilarious in an unintended way. KDM knows many of her sayings by heart, by way of my belabored translation. Sometimes I have it mixed up a little, confusing Mama's axioms with some utterances by Confucius. Mama would say, "Mama may have, papa may have, but nothing like having your own." By "having" she meant money or knowledge, or both. During KDM's first visit at her home, one quiet morning after breakfast, she was counting her newly arrived retirement money for the month. KDM broke her concentration by asking if he could please borrow some till things got better. I translated matter-of-factly and watched for her reaction.  Her eyebrows raised in apparent surprise, her eyes blinking, her mouth in a pre-speech O, having adjusted and firmed herself some, she leaned forward in her seat, spread open an empty hand in his face, and said in no uncertain terms to him that there had been "more money leaked through his finger webs than she'd seen in her entire life"!

That sealed their friendship.

Mama is also one of the least sentimental women I know. She used to make it known that none of her four children slept in her bed as babies. I don't recall much cuddling going on. When it was time for us to leave home for college, she didn't let her attachment get in our way. She said that she had no power or social connections, and we each must find our own way to better lives. For that reason she would not hold us back with her tears.

Only in recent years has she started to cry. She fears for not ever seeing me again on account of her poor health and my living so far away.

But I was thinking more about her many spirited ways. I would find myself in a particular situation, and think what Mama would say about that. Daily encounters and occasions call to mind her many sayings, colorful and free of self-consciousness or irony. The musings make me want to collect and write them down, perhaps in a blog called Leave it to Mother, or something like that. I've also in a past post mentioned something like "the Chinese way", which could be a name for a blog. Truth is, I tend to lump my recollections of "Chinese ways" with memories of Mama no matter how unlike the situations. I suspect that's why I get her and Confucius mixed up sometimes. To put it mildly but succinctly, the two personalities situate quite a bit apart on the "Chinese ways"spectrum.

Maybe I will do just that: start another blog about Mama, and some "Chinese Ways."

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