What will she bring this time, I wonder, translated…
Time Flew Quickly by, I’d No Longer Needed, to Sit at My Desk, Pretending I was, Working on Homework, and, Actually, that Daughter Who’s, Hidden a Novel Beneath the Test Prep Books No Longer Had an Eye, on the Mother, Who’s, Arriving Home at Any Minute. As I’d Started Complaining of How My Child Left the Toys All Over the Places, How She’d Not Finished Her Meals, and, She’d Allowed that Light from Her Computer Screen, to Illuminate Her Excited Gazes. I’d Felt I’m Older Now, and Mom Was Only, Starting, in her Late Puberty Years………
My father asked, “She said she wanted to go and stay with you? Is that right?” My younger sister added, “She’d come to Taipei for supper with me, and seemed to have driven a friend to Taichung, said they were going on a night shoot at the tourist farms or something…” It was close to noon, I was about to put my son down for his nap, “She’d not come over”, I’d typed the words on LINE with just one hand, with a toothbrush in my other hand, going in and out of his mouth, as he’d fought hard, waving his arms and legs around. Not long thereafter, my front door swung open hard, she, with her hiking backpack, camera case in hand, an iPad, along with an assortment of bags big and small, she’d taken off her sunglasses, smiled at me, “Hey, I’m here”.
She’s here. I’m certain, that her car must be, parked, disorderly, downstairs, with the mud on the windshield, marking her proud journey through the night, with the photos of her sightseeing through the entire night in her SD card. She’d taken off her battle clothes, changed into something casual. Having driven all through the night, she’d stuffed the cabbage, the mushrooms, the apples, and some other groceries into the fridge, then, stated, “I’m going to catch some Z’s”.
On the group called “Family”, I’d written, “She’s here”. After I’d moved to Taichung, my mother would come every one and a half months, most of the times, she was in the neighborhood, traveling in Taichung, as her trip ended, she’d, come to my house to spend some time, helping me with the kids, the meals, and after a few days, she’d, gone off again, with her friends once more.
Mom is a great cook. Ever since I’d turned vegetarian, she’d made a few of her specialty dishes just for me, every time we’d dined out, she’d paid close attention to the foods being served, used her experiences and her observant nature, dissected the dishes into the recipes, and duplicated the dishes after she got home. What’s amazing about mom, was turning the foods that nobody wanted to touch, into brand new dishes, on the names of cleaning out the fridge, but, those whom she prepared the foods for never felt they were, eating the leftovers, this was, totally, something that my mother was excellent at.
Because of my work, teaching, and caring for my young, my days were like war, I’d normally, quickly, gotten my meals to go, only on the weekends, would I have the time, to make my meals. Reason why my kitchen was so clean, has nothing to do with how well I’d, cleaned up after use, but due to the lack of use. As mom came, everything in my kitchen seemed to know that she was coming, each item carried that sense of pride, with the atmosphere of respect, of glory, as mom stood in front of the stove, waving the spatula like she was, directing a symphony, she was, filled with life and energy.
Perhaps it’s being in synch, she’d always shown up when I was most fatigued, and fragile. Once I’d had a four-hour course to teach, with the four hours of meeting afterwards consecutively, I’d, dragged my tired feet home. Pushing open my front door, the smell of the aromatic mushroom entered into my nostrils, and, that familiar scent opened its arms wide to embrace me, without tilting my head into the kitchen, I’d known, that mom is here. She always has a way, of digging up the dried mushrooms, the garlic, or gingers and leeks that were, frozen to beyond recognition, combined them with the freshly bought vegetables, tofu, quickly, produced a table’s worth of her kids’ favorite foods. Not only were her kids happy, savoring her stir fried cabbage, cooked tofu, curry, it’s, as if, I’d, returned back to before I was wed, started eating ‘til my heart’s content, without needing to clean up, that, was an amazing time of life, and although I’d felt guilty, and started cleaning up, my mother would stop me like an authoritarian, “You’d worked so slowly, I’ll do the dishes.” “The kitchen is way too small, why did you come in here? Go and spend time with your children!”
Although I’m already a mother now, this was, the kindness, she’d, shown towards me, with her actions.
Her gentle concerns for me also included making her specialized dishes for me too.
Since I have my young, don’t know why I’d become, addicted to the chili peppers, perhaps, it was because I’d quit coffee because I was breastfeeding, I’d gotten, this new food fad. But, as I took my child out, the foods I’d ordered, can’t be spicy at all, even if it’s just, adding some small amount of pepper, my son’s eyes and nose would, start watering up, plus my husband didn’t like spicy foods, and so, I’d, held it all down. And, every now and then, I’d taken the rare opportunities of having the chances to dine alone, rushed into the small food shops, whether it be the spicy and sour soup, the spicy-sour noodle soup, the stinky tofu with the chilis added, they’d all become, an extravagance to me. I’d savored these dishes by myself, sweating it all out, it’d felt, refreshing.
And, my mother knew of these chances of spicy foods I’d had, as my child and husband left the supper tables, that, was when she brought out the specialty dishes: the red hot chili peppers with the bean curd and vegetarian hams, the ingredients, simple, but, with a lot of heart, saved for, just, the two of us. The two of us sat opposite of one another, without a word of exchange, silently, chewed, felt the heat, silently, burning up our throats separately. When mom visited, other than stuffing up my emptied fridge, there’s, also, the specialty housekeeping services too, but, normally, it’s with, a ton of nagging, like as she was making the soups, adding in the salt, she’d added, “these Japanese seaweeds are so expensive, and, you’d kept them, until they’re, almost, expired.” In how my time is cramped up too tightly, I can only, make the minimum requirements of housework, if I can make a meal with two dishes, I’d not used three; if it wasn’t necessary, I’d hung my clothes out on the racks, and when needed, I’d, yank ed them off, put them on directly (that way, I’d not needed to worry about wrinkles). This, in my mother, who’s been a housewife for forty years, was a taboo, she couldn’t understand, how I’d become a mother now, and still, lived with the minimum measures.
Before she’d poured the clothes into the washer, she’d always remembered to separating the socks from the clothes (Your skin allergies were because you’d washed them together). As she’d started nagging, she’d cleaned my underwear (you must wash these every single day), washing the bib that my son has (the collar was so dirty and you’d not used the detergents to soak it first), scrubbed the kitchen floors, as she’d ranted on and on, but still continued, scrubbing the window panes, and after she’d finished ALL of the household chores I couldn’t even imagine, she’d blamed me for not buying bigger sized shoes for my young, complained how the gingers, the lemon had, dried up, being in the refrigerators, then, with that spoiling mannerism, she’d, pulled my son out to the parks, and, bought a few artificially colored candy to keep his mouth shut, then, as my son ran out of her field of vision, she’d, started, screaming out at him, watching him closely.
Before I married, when I’d still lived with my mother, she’d nagged incessantly, it’d made me angry, and, I’d talked back to her, using the meanest ways, and she’d slammed the doors, with, “You’re on your own then!”, but of course, she couldn’t just, leave me be, after a few days, a replay of the same things. My father who was there had already, learned, to ignore, and continued, eating his meals, watching his television programs. Even so, it’d still, made my father mad, once on the day before New Year’s Eve, my mother and I gotten into a serious fight on how to wring dry the mop, my father got angered, and hollered out to me, “Go and apologize to your mother!”
The moments of our past fights: the anger, the tears, the complaints, they’d become, unreal now, it’d become, funny, of the dramatics. And now, I looked at my mother, whom I only got to see occasionally, seeing her swiftly worked around the house, heard her complained on and on, swiftly, found bones to pick out, in my already cocky, lazy mannerisms—like picking out a strand of hair, in a perfectly cooked dish, hit me right where it’d, hurt; and unless she was way overboard, I usually, kept silent, there was that nostalgic feeling of “So, this, is my mother”…
As I’d become a mother, I’d, inherited her nagging ways too more or less. Ever since she was into photography and Facebook, I’d found a reason, to nag her. From her occasional visits, I’d learned that the internet had, turned her back into a teenager in her schedules: night rushes, night photo sessions, turning home late in the evenings. Our hard-to-come-by family gatherings, she’d taken the opportunities of the dishes still being cooked, to log onto FB to check the happenings. Late at night, I was waken by my child, to go to breastfeed, I’d found her light still on, I’d, knocked and entered, and surely, she was still, uploading the photos of her travel, or trying, to keep her eyes open, holding conversations with her friends. I’d reminded her, “Mom, time to sleep”, she’d only replied, “Mmmmmmm.”, without even turning her head.
“Okay, stop nagging me already!”
The time turned so quickly, I’m no longer sitting at my desk, pretending to work on my assignments, reading those romance novels underneath my practice test volumes anymore, she’s no longer the one, watching the clock on the wall, waiting my return. As I’d complained on how my son left his toys scattered all over, how he wouldn’t eat his meals, she’d allowed the screens, to illuminate her excitement. I am beginning to feel older, and, she seemed to, have only, begun the later years of her puberty.
Even as we’d nagged one another, and started getting all worked up, my mother never kept scores. In the mornings when I woke, I’d found that she had her toothbrush in her mouth, with her head in the fridge, heating up the stoves, and not long thereafter, a full table of yummy breakfast again. Only when mom visited, my breakfast became that all-you-can-eat buffet: the breads with the preserves, the stir-fry vegetable noodle, steamed yams, a plate of greens, drizzled with olive oil, with the nuts, an assortment of fruits and a hot cup of soy milk, and once, there was the pine nuts pesto rice (making full use of leftovers from the previous night).
Seeing how delicate the table’s worth of food was, all the reasons I’d usually used: can’t have that much food, I’m running late already, I don’t have much of an appetite, etc., etc., etc., I’d, swallowed back in, I can only, sit down obediently, picked up my bowl. My mother turned on her iPad, logged online, found music to play.
“Mom, have some”.
“You guys start first, I’ll find some music. There’s no T.V. at your house, it’s too quiet, having some music gets my appetite going.”
“It’s okay, I’ll wait”, actually, I’d wanted her, to put down her iPad.
The music flowed, above the bread and the soy milk, above the mother and daughter too. The words that got tossed, got locked between the tolerance, the agreements that we silently shared. As I finally found time to relax, mom was, right here with me.
So, this is how the mother and daughter related to one another now, their roles are switched, the daughter is now, like the mother, nagging her about not staying up too late, eating her foods on time, etc., etc., etc., and from their interactions, you can see, that there are, some conflicts between them, but also, a lot of love as well.