Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Mother’s Visit

My mom came to help us about two months before I delivered Richard. She had not seen me for ten years. She said that I changed a lot, mostly the way I spent money. In her memory, I had a “big hand.” I thought that I was always good about saving. I never worried about money when I worked in China, every time I went out for business trip. Except for business expenses, I did buy a lot of local specialty goods wherever I went. I thought I did my mom a favor because I carried them home. Then my mom gave me money to bail me out. With my trips all the time, I guess that really put them on a very tight budget. I never heard my mom complain. I stayed home with my parents and ate at home most of the time without paying my parents and they never asked me to pay for anything. I usually bought fruit, vegetables, or whatever I saw that looked good on the way home to share with everyone. I rarely bought clothes or anything else for myself except books. My monthly salary, plus government bonds in four years was in savings before I left China. I gave everything back to my parents.
     The first time I started to get worried about money was here in the US, right after I paid my first month rent and security deposit with my $400 per month stipend. I knew that my mom’s money could not help me anymore.
     Now, the first few weeks after her arrival, we had so much to talk about especially now that I was married with children of my own. I felt that we had so much more in common. Things I never knew or I did not understand before, I understood now. I felt more respect for my mom, since she worked full time, watching and caring for the three of us plus our sick grandma at the same time in a very small two-bedroom apartment. She did not know how to ride a bicycle so she had to carry everything while walking. I understood why she forgot some of my requests, overlooked my sensitive needs and her high expectations. I knew that I could not do the same.
     Jonathan did not take my mother’s visit very well at first. He could not understand what we talked about. He often came between us and said, “no Chinese please! English please!” I was too close to my mom, which made him insecure. He was the center of my life. He rejected my mother’s help with everything. “Mommy do it, Mommy do it” became his routine. If I didn’t do it, he would insist on doing it himself. It was so funny to watch him and my mom fight over putting laundry on the clotheslines in the backyard in the morning and taking them down in the afternoon. He would bring a chair under the clotheslines and try to put on and take off the clothes while standing on the chair. He got upset if my mom tried to help. “I will do it, I will do it,” looked like he could do a better job. My mom’s only English, “No, No, Jonathan…” while she tried to correct him. Jonathan would then run to me and cry, ask me to hold him and give him a bottle of milk, rocking him in our wooden rocking chair and singing “Rock-a-bye baby on the tree top….” at same time. Every now and then, my mom came by and said in Chinese, “Oh, still mommy’s little baby! Someone needs to know that another baby is coming and he needs to grow up to be a big brother.” My mom at the same time felt rejected too. I tried to explain that they were both going through culture shock.
     I don’t know when they started to like each other and they seemed to know how to communicate with each other. He let my mom help him take a bath, use the bathroom, dress up in the morning, etc. My mom seemed to return to her childhood in the playground. With Jonathan, she tried out everything that she never had a chance to try herself when she was a child. She went up and down the slide with Jonathan, encouraging him to take big steps on the challenging ones. I was pretty nervous since she was over 60 and she seemed to often forget that.
  On Easter weekend, Anthony’s parents came and we took Jonathan to the playground again. There my mother hurt her wrist when she fell pushing the swing. She felt so bad especially in front of my in-laws, which started her worst turn. She put on her Chinese medicine she brought with her when she came, but it smelled so strong that she went outside in the backyard. She was also using her buffalo bone to massage her wrist. Hoping for a quick recovery, she followed the book she had brought along with other stuff from Taiwan. I tried to give her ice to prevent her wrist from swelling but she refused.
     The next day, her wrist was swollen so badly and her hand was blue. I was really worried and asked her to stop whatever she was doing. The buffalo bone massage might be good for something, but not for everything like the book claimed. We would have to send her to the hospital if the swelling didn’t go away. We asked her to try to use ice for the swelling and warm water to increase her blood circulation. She tried and her hand was much better the next day.