I love [my mom] so much it kills me, and I’d sooner die than tell her.
April 25, 2013 3:40 PM   Subscribe

My Foreign Mom. "Every morning when the bus would come to pick us up while it was still dark out, I could see her slight backlit frame outlined in our blinds as she watched us drive away. A senior on the bus once asked if my mom knew that we could all totally see her. I told that kid to go fuck himself and to quit looking at my mom. To this day, I still can’t watch her watch us leave."
posted by Phire (25 comments total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
posted by liketitanic at 4:11 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

1) This is good writing. I know, because I didn't really want to read it, and wasn't enthralled and yet I couldn't stop reading.

2) "She told me about the time I wandered off with another family in a park, which I totally remember because they had empirically superior toys."

That totally made me think of this Tim and Eric sketch :(
posted by symbioid at 4:13 PM on April 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

She pulls rank all the time and once judo-flipped me onto my back in a grocery store to remind me where things stood.

My kind of mom!
posted by jamjam at 4:29 PM on April 25, 2013

Why is this? As a child of first generation immigrants - so much of the time, it felt like we were dealing with not just a generation gap, but a culture gap. A gap that made me extra snarky, short tempered, and impatient. But damn, did my parents mean everything to me. Even now - all my mother needs to do is look a little askance, and I get panicked (a 45 year old man!!).

I never told my father I loved him. I cannot even form the phrase in my head in my native Cantonese. But fuck, I loved that crazy asshole.

When he was ill with terminal cancer - I went and spent a few months with him in Hong Kong. We spent our days bickering, driving around odd parts of HK, with me in full eye rolling mode, and he losing patience with my incredulity over his ridiculous business plans (in his last few days, he had a scheme to by a heliport in Hainan Province, something he knew nothing about).

I could tell he loved every second of my visit.
posted by helmutdog at 4:33 PM on April 25, 2013 [29 favorites]

Mary H K Choi is an amazing writer. Even, I've just discovered, when she dials it down a notch or two.
posted by Flashman at 4:41 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I hate reading these kinds of memoir, but that is some GOOD motherfucking writing.
posted by etc. at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I loved this.
posted by jillithd at 6:34 PM on April 25, 2013

I was laughing and on the verge of tears through that whole article. I have never read anything else by Mary H K Choi but damn that was good. In these three sentences, she perfectly nails that feeling of being a kid and having an immigrant parent you think is hopelessly, embarrassingly foreign:

"When I was small I thought I was just cooler than my mom because of how foreign she is. She’s really foreign. You’d think it would kill her to get store-bought snacks, she’s that foreign."

I love my mom and we have a good relationship now, but there are times I think of things I said or did when I was a kid or, worse, a teenager, and I want to curl up in a ball and die. And what really kills me is, my mom will deny I was ever that awful to her--I don't know if she honestly has forgotten or (more likely) she knows kids can be horrible shits sometimes and has forgiven me because that's what good mothers do.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:42 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

My mom wasn't as thoughtful as Mary's and I was a more appreciative child, but after reading that I feel like getting embarrassingly sentimental the next time I see my mom. Wonderful read.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:00 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great read, but I think I still need to be a little bit older to hit Mary H K Choi's stage of how much she loves her mom. The memories of full on tiger mother screeching at how I'll never amount to anything and how they've given up on me are still too fresh in my mind.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:11 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

My mom died 10 years ago this year, and man, this made me well up and miss her an awful lot. Mary's mom sounds awesome and this is a wonderful tribute to her.

I’m worried that my mom will hurt herself and that people will see. The whole thing infuriates me. I refuse to eat the snacks that she’s tin-foiled from home.

Ha! This is pretty much my entire relationship with both my mother and my father.

Great read. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by cardinality at 7:56 PM on April 25, 2013

Dying of envy, here.
posted by SPrintF at 8:04 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wish there was more about the mom, and less about the writer.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:21 PM on April 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

I enjoyed that so very much. Off to google the author...
posted by Wantok at 9:46 PM on April 25, 2013

I appreciate the honesty in the linked article and I somewhat comprehend the familial competitiveness Choi describes.

But as someone who is American-born of an immigrant Asian mother, I don't fully understand Choi's persona. That and the writing seemed banal (contra the praise of my fellow MeFites) despite following the dictum of telling stories using specific detail instead of ready-to-hand abstractions.
posted by mistersquid at 11:23 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mary Choi's mom is nothing like my mom, and yet I'm crying and wishing I could hug my 3000-miles-away mom right now!

Good stuff. Thanks for posting.
posted by apricot at 3:59 AM on April 26, 2013

This was good writing, but made me uncomfortable: I think I've been the mom in this situation more than I've been the kid. The thing about the hamburgers made me wince. Maybe the fact that it made me uncomfortable means it is good, though.
posted by corb at 4:29 AM on April 26, 2013

This piece made me smile and wince and squirm, sometimes from recognition and sometimes from amazement. This is good writing.

I hope she hugs her mom next time they see each other.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:03 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had an up down relationship with my mom because, looking back, I know why she was always angry, sad, irrationally controlling, etc. Very borderline personality disorder. Didn't help my dad abused her in every way possible.

When I was in grammar school (probably 2nd grade?) we carpooled w/ this jerk of a family but being kids, you follow the leader not realizing your actions. Well these kids would make fun of my mom and I would giggle and then eventually join in. I would call her fat, dumb, etc. and she was none of this. She was probably all her life tops 125lbs at 5'3". Going through her things after she died I realized she would have made VP of finance. The woman saved our family close to 1/2 mill. She never worked.

Anyway, my 4 year old had scarlet fever recently and has been irritable. He also is testing his ground. The other day, because he didn't get what he wanted, he told me he wanted new parents. I blew it off (although he did get a toy taken away). Next up---he didn't love me. His favorite toy got taken away. Finally, yesterday he broke my heart. He called me Mother Gofel (from Rapunzel--the wicked bitch of a mom who stole Rupunzel from her parents) and it hit me and hit me hard. When I called my mom fat, dumb, etc and even "Mommy Dearest" (in all seriousness, she totally was acting like Joan Crawford that time) I now know what it felt like for your child's words to hurt you.

I felt angry, sad, hurt, and guilty---forever guilty--for all of the asshole things I said to my mom and this coming out of a 4 year old meant that there were many more hurt words to come in his life. And it sucks.

What goes around, comes around.

Of course, I also learned how not to treat my son. And when I tell him "I'm really hurt" he cried and hugged me. My husband tells me not to worry, I'm his universe.
posted by stormpooper at 6:57 AM on April 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I wasn't impressed by the writing, perhaps it just wasn't my preferred style. It did leave me feeling sympathetic for the author's mother, and while she ends on a note that she's completely focused on her mom - there was a feeling of egoism which flowed from the anecdotes about herself and into the writing style, itself. For as much as it's written about her mom, it still seemed to be an article about her. That's not bad, but I don't know if that was the intention or not.
posted by Atreides at 7:06 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

But as someone who is American-born of an immigrant Asian mother, I don't fully understand Choi's persona. That and the writing seemed banal (contra the praise of my fellow MeFites) despite following the dictum of telling stories using specific detail instead of ready-to-hand abstractions.

Not everyone likes the same things and that doesn't have to mean anything in particular?
posted by liketitanic at 8:11 AM on April 26, 2013

The story in the comments is well-written, evocative and made me just cry and cry.
posted by hmo at 11:57 AM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

hmo: "The story in the comments is well-written, evocative and made me just cry and cry."

Oh gosh, that was a gut punch. Thanks, hmo.

The best things about posting this article has been seeing the heartfelt responses and personal stories from other posters, and feeling like other people get it. You get what Choi struggles with; you and I go through the same thing she does. We're a band of misfit transcontinental transplants. It's nothing profound, it's just...nice.
posted by Phire at 12:07 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read the story because I suspected it might be something like the dynamic that exists between my wife, who is an immigrant, and my sons, who are in a way first-gen Canadians, notably the language difficulties.

Immigrant women, if they run a household, typically lag behind men in language acquisition, and there are reasons for this - they stay at home and don't have opportunities to learn or practice English. This causes isolation or for people from different socioeconomic backgrounds than the Chois, poverty.

So I wanted to learn more about the mom and see what her experience was like, and maybe get some insights into my own wife's life in Canada.

As it was it read more like a blog post written by a 23-year-old. It was deeply personal, but not particularly insightful.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:10 PM on April 26, 2013

A (fellow) Korean American friend got married last summer. When his father stood up during the reception to give his speech and talked about how hard he tries to understand his artistic son and how proud he is that his son is getting married to a sweet, smart woman, I just started bawling at my table. Sobbing unconsolably. My seatmates patted me in bafflement as I tried to explain, "Korean parents.... Korean parents... they try so hard but..."
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:05 PM on April 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

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