“Mothers are all slightly insane”

(The title is from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye)

mother

Having arrived back from the Philippines for two days now, I am missing my son so much. I think of the few days I spent with him and recall his smile and his scent and his little arms when he hugged me. And then I go to class looking miserable. Life.

When I’m with my son, I feel like I’m a human jukebox who sings whatever he wants me to sing, or recites Frost’s “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening,” or one of his books. Most of the time, I forget lines from the book or skip some and he promptly corrects me, having memorized almost all of his books and Frost’s poem which I’ve recited to him since he was only 4 days old. (Yeah, yeah. It’s my favorite poem, so.)

My son’s musical taste ranges from classical to pop to nursery rhymes. My husband made him watch Barnabas Kelemen’s performance of Mozart’s violin concertos since he was only five months old, so he is quite familiar with the notes of the concertos. He was so into this video that during his ABA therapy sessions, the therapist used the video as a reinforcement. When the therapist asked me what videos my son liked, I told him about Barnabas Kelemen’s concert. He just wrote it down and said he’d check it out and use it as a reinforcement. The following week he said to me, “So this is classical music? I thought this was some cartoon character or animation.” I thought that was funny.

Although I’m not really a Katy Perry fan, for some reason I got into singing “Teenage Dream” to my son to make him sleep when he was a baby until he was two years old. I would hold him and rock him to sleep while singing this song. And then one day when he was about three years old, I heard him singing a melody which I thought was familiar and realized it was the lines from the song, “You make me feel like I’m living a teenage dream, the way you turn me on./ I can’t sleep/ Let’s run away and never look back/ Don’t ever look back.” Yikes.

These days, though, he likes Franciscus Henri’s version of “Six Little Ducks.” I don’t know why. He’s known these rhymes since he was a baby, and he still likes to listen to them and when I’m around, he makes me sing some of these. A few days ago, he made me sing “Six Little Ducks” so many times (perhaps to make up for the days when I wasn’t around?) And each time, he rewarded me with a tight-lipped smile that seemed to say we shared a secret together. It is a kind of a secret. No one can sing “Six Little Ducks” like his mother — with feelings. My son is used to seeing me act goofy. I wonder what goes on in his mind when he’s watching me sing his favorite nursery rhymes complete with action and facial expression. But seeing his smile is enough to make me go on being goofy. I’m a clown.

Whenever I think about acting goofy in front of my son, I always remember my mother and how goofy she was with me. She was the goofiest woman I know, and that’s what I missed most about her. It felt kind of strange when, talking with my sisters, we had different memories of our mother. They said they did not really see the affectionate side of our mother, that she was serious and strict with them. She was that too sometimes, with me, but I remember her hugs and kisses and laughter more. I remember telling her she was not like other mothers, that she was crazy in a good way. She was the kind of mother who didn’t mind being called “cat” and would respond with “Meow.”

My mother was not perfect, but she had an interesting personality. She can be a good character for a novel. Maybe one day I’ll be able to write about her, which is what she used to ask me to do — “Write about me. Write a poem for me.”

It’s been a year since she passed on, but somehow I don’t really feel she’s gone. I only do when I think about it, then the memories come flooding back and I feel sorry for her, for what she went through during the last months of her life.

This post was supposed to be about me being a mother, but I’m ending it with thoughts I have of my own mother. I guess there’s a lot of my mother in me even if there are some things about her personality I do not want to inherit. Meow. But if what I got from her will make my son remember me with fondness, then I’m grateful. I would like my son to remember me with a smile or with a laugh.

‘Mothers are all slightly insane.” – J.D. Salinger

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On Age, Music and Chemicals in the Brain

music

A few days ago, I came across this interesting post on serotonin and dopamine and was reminded of it yesterday as I was listening to the songs of Barry Manilow. (OK. Please. Just be patient with me. I do have a point I want to share.)

When I was younger (“…so much younger than today…”) whenever I heard Barry Manilow’s songs, I would sing along until I cried (Yeah, I was that disgustingly dramatic.) I would think of the guys that I liked but didn’t even know I existed, or the guys that I liked but were not free, or the only one that broke my heart to pieces. (Who would not cry listening to “Even Now” and “Somewhere down the Road”???)

Now that I’m in my 40’s and in a stable, loving relationship with my husband of 10 years, and together raising a child, I feel absolutely nothing when I hear the songs that used to make me cry and later make me smile. When I listened to those same songs yesterday, there was not even a sigh. Nada. It seemed like that part of my mind or my heart just disappeared!

My husband thinks it’s just because I’m over that time in my life. Well, I have been over that period in my life for years now. But I used to have fond memories of that time. Now, even that fondness is gone.

So I wonder if those chemicals in my brain are up to something, or I am just getting old or already old.

Do old songs still make you cry or smile or angry? Do they have any effect on you at all? 

Will you remember…?

erhu

I love the melancholic sound of the erhu

 

I took this picture morning of Christmas Eve while I was walking at the park. I’ve always loved the melancholic sound of the erhu, so when I heard it, I  walked towards where the sound was coming from and saw this old man facing the pagoda as if he was playing for the one for whom it was built. Fortunately for me, he turned around and, click! I took a photo.

The ever sentimental me imagined the old man was probably playing for his grandfather or great grandfather, and I thought how nice it would be to be remembered the same way by the ones you leave behind. (Of course the practical and realistic part of me has something else to say.)

That night, Christmas Eve, my husband and our friends and I talked about death instead of having dessert after dinner. It came about after our friend complained about being over 60 and feeling that he was  getting really close to the end. I just laughed at him saying 60 wasn’t old, and I remembered crying when my father turned 60 as I thought he was going to die soon, but he lived to be 81.

It was not the first time we talked about death instead of having dessert. I remember another time when I thought aloud about dying and nobody would be coming to my funeral because I have not lived in my hometown for a long time, and my friends have also left. My husband, who is introverted,  felt the same way. And so did our friend who was in his early 50’s then.

But really, does it matter? Would we even know?

I would like to think my father is aware that we have not forgotten him, that I have not forgotten him. That I light candles for him on important dates, and I smoke a cigarette on his birthday and on All Soul’s Day, that I visit his grave whenever I go home and again before I leave. I do all these because I want to, because I like remembering him, and I want him to be happy, just in case he is aware of these things.

My husband once asked me if I thought our son (this was before our son was diagnosed with ASD) would ever visit his (my husband’s) grave in his hometown in the north of China on Tomb-sweeping Day. He was a little shocked by my blunt and totally unsympathetic reply: “Are you crazy? Why would you burden your son to travel every year just to visit your grave? You would not even be there anymore!” I did apologize for the bluntness, but he admitted it was a burden.

I don’t want to be buried. I want to be cremated, and my ashes scattered in the sea in my hometown or any sea really. Or, if Eli, by that time is already capable of feeling love and loss like typical people do, perhaps he can keep some for himself that he can carry around with him wherever he goes. And if the dead me sees that, I would be truly happy.

I think we all want, desire to be remembered by people we love. But when we’re gone, it doesn’t really matter if they do or they don’t, does it?

Remembering is only for the good of the living, not of the dead.

“Everybody’s somebody’s fool…”

It was supposed to be a rock music day –I started with U2’s The Joshua Tree album and sang along with Bono, and then it was Freddie Mercury and the Queen. But as I went over the Lyrics folder in my old portable hard drive I saw “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” and remembered the song.

I first heard this song when I bought a CD called “When Love Goes Wrong” a few years back.

Everybody’s somebody’s fool

The world is the biggest school
As you live, you learn though a torch will burn
Everybody’s somebody’s fool

You go through life making fools of others
Pretending you’re giving them love
But remember sister or brother
You all have to answer to the one up above

It’s beautiful to watch love begin
But oh so sad when it ends
As you go through life remember this rule
Everybody’s somebody’s fool

It’s beautiful to watch love begin
But oh so sad when it ends
As you go through life remember this rule
Everybody’s somebody’s fool

It seems like ages ago when I felt I could have written those lyrics myself. I think many have played the fool at one point in his or her life — when one gave all and left almost nothing for oneself — to someone who, as one looks back, was not really deserving of it, and not just because the love that was offered was not reciprocated, but because the person was not what you thought. But c’est la vie. Perhaps at one time, too, we fooled somebody into believing we loved them, when, really, we were just fond of them like we are fond of pets.

This song also reminds me of the first line of one of my favorite contemporary novels written by Andrew Sean Greer, The Confessions of Max Tivoli: “We are each the love of someone’s life”. This sentence really moved me at the time. My mentor/spiritual director/idol mentioned it to me, and I looked it up and read the book and emailed Mr. Greer and, I think because he wasn’t as famous that time and had the time to read and reply to emails, he replied to my email, and I was in heaven. It is so true. There is that one person who truly loves us, and remains faithful to us despite the many shortcomings or hurts we have caused them. They are our angels. Of course psychology will have a different explanation, but who cares? Somebody loves us more than we can ever love ourselves or them, and it’s enough.

You maybe a fool now (perhaps you fooled somebody in the past), but know that someone out there loves you. You are the love of someone’s life. Be grateful for that love.