Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

While I say that my mother's life hasn't been a breezy, happy walk in the park, I have some memories that randomly pop into my head and make me laugh hysterically. One of the most consistent themes is my mom's numerous failed attempts to train me out of my own nature, with occasionally hilarious results. For example I am, and always have been, a bit of a softy. I take up crazy causes and occasionally try to remove water from the ocean, one thimble at a time. This is a trait I have undeniably inherited from my mom. Since she couldn't fight her own nature, she occasionally thought she'd fight mine. Let me share a couple of my favorite memories:

We were stuck in traffic in Tehran on the way to my grandmother's house one afternoon and as would typically happen, a beggar came and tapped on the window. I rolled the window down and said hi, which he ignored and started his litany of problems: his pregnant wife, hungry kids, sick mother...I was already digging through my backpack for money. Just as I found a couple of coins (the equivalent of about 50 cents), my mom grabbed my wrist and chastised me, "Don't give him money! He's probably a drug addict. He's just going to buy drugs!" She continued lecturing me, and didn't notice that the beggar had moved to her side of the car and was tapping at her window, his hand held out and repeating his story. She didn't skip a beat. She reached into her pocket, pulled out a bunch of bills (about $15) and handed the money to him, and promised to bring clothes for his girls if he was around there later in the week. I stared at her in disbelief as she rolled up her window.

"What?! I can't let him go home empty handed. But you shouldn't be so gullible, you need to toughen up!"

I'm sorry to say, that hasn't really happened.

We went to Mashhad my senior year of high school, to worship at the shrine of Imam Reza. For my non-vacationing family, this was actually a big deal to get out of the house. For me it was a bit of a downer that I wouldn't see the memorials to Ferdousi and Khayam; and I'd have to make due with making a direct appeal to religious figures to help me get into college. Imam Reza's shrine is always busy and full of people who have come from around the country to pray at the shrine of the only Imam buried in Iran. The highly ornate, mausoleum is so densely packed, you can't move; rather you are like a leaf riding the wave. You start at the outer part of the room, are pushed forward, briefly touch the enshrined tomb, and are eventually pushed out in the sea of humanity. It's claustrophobic, overwhelming and confusing. Especially if you lose sight of the person you came in with. After all, that many women in black chadors kind of blend into one indistinguishable ocean. So when I found myself pushed out of the mausoleum, I sat myself down on the marble floor facing the room I just exited and continued to pray for a college education as I waited for my mom. I was having a pretty decent heart to heart with Imam Reza and God about my wishlist when I realized a pretty big commotion a little bit to the left of me.

A crowd of about 10-15 people had surrounded a wailing woman, offering comfort in hushed tones and promising to help her. Out of sheer curiosity, I walked over and heard her crying, "My baby! I lost my baby! Someone, please bring her back to me! She's all I have in this world." For a brief second, I felt so bad for this black clad woman, I wanted to join in and promise to help her find her child. But that passed quickly.

"Sister, what does she look like? What was she wearing? How tall is she?" An older looking cleric was standing beside her, trying to extract as much information as possible. To his credit, he was already motioning to organize people to help find her poor child.

"She was wearing a black chador--just like this one. She has big green eyes, with little specks in them. She's about my height, but thinner than me..." The whole crowd just stopped. Up to that point, they thought this woman had lost a baby/infant/toddler; not a person her own size. A few laughed and started to walk away. The cleric smiled and said, "I'm sure your daughter is very smart and will meet you at the hotel. Would you like us to call and see if she's already there?"

And before my mom could tell the world how innocent and incapable I was of finding my way anywhere, I called out, "Mom! Let's go.", which turned a few heads when uttered in English in an Iranian house of worship. I will say that the cleric was a much better person than me for not bursting out laughing at the bi-lingual 'baby' that had found its mother.

The first few minutes of our walk back to the hotel was passed in complete silent. She finally turned to me and said, "Young lady, getting that kind of attention is wrong! You can't be melodramatic and hysterical all the time. Think and then..." Unfortunately, I couldn't hear anything else she said after that; I was laughing too hard.

To this day, I have no idea how that was going to be a lesson for me. I just know she wanted me to be better and more successful than she was. I love that about her.


Anonymous said...

Wow, this describes about 90% of the arguments my mom and I find ourselves in. Pointing out each other's flaws that we inevitably own ourselves. Eventually, humor and laughing at ourselves (and each other) gets the better of us. :)

Ah, moms and daughters. The most mysterious relationship in the human experience.

Jumping Fences said...

This is great. It made me laugh quite a few times. The last bit, about your mom wanting you to be more successful than she was, and you loving that... it's the same with me and my mother, and I love her for it, too.

Also, I've been meaning to ask. Is your name a reference to David Foster Wallace's book of short stories? Because if so, good call. I picked it up at the book store simply because of the name (which made me think of you, which may or may not be weird, I'm sorry if it is) and I absolutely love it. I have four and a half stories left, but so far my favorite is Little Expressionless Animals.

Jayne said...

I read this story a few weeks ago when you first posted it, but since Chez is always logged in I haven't had a chance to comment. Your story is so cute! I can picture the immediate break in commotion the minute your English words came out- it's like a scene from a movie in my head.

My mom and I are much more alike than either of us want to admit, that's for sure. But I suppose that's the nature of this mysterious relationship. I keep telling my belly "one day you'll hate me, and I'm ok with that."