Things I Discovered While My Mom Visited This Past Week

Too Early, Too Hot

Not only was I born with a different internal clock than the rest of my family who seems to enjoy rising at 6am or earlier for no discernable reason, my body temperature must also be askew. When my sister visited a few years ago in the middle of February, I was appalled to see my bedroom windows flung wide open. We not so long ago had this conversation:

Me: “Remember when we were kids and had to turn the heat off at night?”

Sister: “You keep your heat on at night?!

Yes, yes we do. And it’s not free radiator heat either. This past week, my bedroom windows were wide open when I woke up each morning. And once again, I was all, “what the fuck are you doing?” I don’t consider 40s-50s to be open-window weather. I guess in Oregon that is downright balmy?

Red Sauce

Out of the blue, no one talking about food.

Mom: “Do you like marinara?”

That’s a question I’ve been waiting to be asked for years so I can say emphatically, “No!”

Mom: “I don’t either.”

Maybe I’m genetically predisposed to not enjoy Italian-American food.


When my grandma and her friend go to the Indian casino in Fife, they willingly stay at place called Norman Bates Motel.

My grandma’s biological father, my great-grandfather who was dead before I was born, was a cook with a drinking problem who lived in motels (not the Norman Bates). This would’ve been Mildred Pierce-era, 1930s Los Angeles. There’s nothing to really romanticize about this (that my grandmother spent time in foster care was also news to me) or get Bukowskian over, but I wish I knew the name of the restaurant, probably more of a diner, if only for curiosity’s sake. It turns out that my mom has one of his marked-up cookbooks that she is sending to me. Lacking any family food history, this is all I have.

No Habla Español

Despite having no memory of such a thing, according to my mom my dad spoke Spanish and did so with his siblings in the phone on many occasions. When I make statements like this it gives the impression that I did not grow up with my father and that he was an estranged mystery. And yet I was raised by both parents under the same roof until I was an official adult. I swear I never heard my dad speak Spanish and swear that he told me as the fifth of ten (originally 12) kids, he and all the other born after him only learned English. So, I totally could’ve been learning another language as a youngster instead of paying money to mangle it as a grown-up? That sucks.

The Middle

This is something I will have to think about more later, but I am conflicted over what I thought was middlebrow taste. My love of chain restaurants is obviously not sophisticated, though I don’t consider it lowbrow either because that starts straying into kitsch, irony and that delicious camp that some fear is disappearing (I too, have wondered if everyone is becoming too informed and tasteful for trash). Chains are firmly mainstream, which is why it’s tricky business to admire them without exoticising and consequently seeming condescending. I will admit the great appeal of chain restaurants for me is that we don’t have them in NYC. So yes to exotic, but that doesn’t automatically make me elitist. 

But I don’t really care for most middlebrow culture, a revelation that hit me when ceding television control and being exposed to The Middle. Sure, it (along with Modern Family, which I also don’t watch) is entertaining and humorous. I see why the shows are popular (I can’t be so kind to royal family 20/20 specials, Regis and Kelly, Rachael Ray and Dancing With the Stars, which also got some rare airtime in the living room) but I want to not like them in the same way that I want to not like the books my mom reads (I forgot how voraciously she reads, an Oregonian trait that I admire and don’t see here where it’s only MFA program type youngsters or New Yorker readers and bibles for everyone else. I regret not reading like I did pre-NYC days, though I don’t know if that’s an Oregon/NYC divide as much as a burgeoning internet/full-on digital distraction onslaught evolution) literature begging to be adapted for film like Water for Elephants and The Help.

Choking Up

When I get around my mom, I revert into April  from Parks and Recreation.

Just recounting how Water for Elephants ends (which created a hilarious mental image of Robert Pattinson in old age makeup running away with the circus to die) caused my mom to start bawling. I had completely forgotten how little could set her off. And this is strange because I kind of love and revel in nostalgia and sentimentality, but I am very controlled about crying (unless I’ve had too much to drink) in public and well, anywhere. It’s undignified.

Maybe fighting genetics isn’t worthwhile. My father would tear up over episodes of Little House in the Prairie, which in some way reminds me of the Mexican-American youth and their fondness for Morrissey.

2 thoughts on “Things I Discovered While My Mom Visited This Past Week

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