Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Internet Group I Want Most


With all the different internet forums and groups, you'd think there would be one for people who were tormented by foodie moms.

Last month my mother flew from Japan to spend time with me in Honolulu and I realized how cooking for her puts me on edge. Crazy how trauma from decades ago creeps up like this.

My mother has never been a laid back person, but she was at her worst during the first few years following my father's very early death. All understandable. She lost not only her life partner but the sole breadwinner. They had just bought a house in suburban Tokyo so there was a giant mortgage. My father, a man who lived mostly in the moment, thought he would be able to provide for his family forever and had no life insurance. Their savings had been eaten up by my Very Expensive International School Tuition. My mother had to join the work force for the first time in her life at 45 and the waters were rough and hard to navigate. Not to mention the exhausting hour-long commute on rush hour trains and subways.

It was easy for her to take out her frustration, fatigue, depression, confusion, anger, sadness, fear -- that Molotov cocktail of emotions -- on her first born: me.

I was finishing up my first year as an undergraduate and immediately got a decently paying job teaching English. It was enough to pay for my education, as well as our living costs, while my mother's paycheck went entirely towards paying back the home loan. So I thought (oh, silly teenage me!) we were on even ground. Ha. There is no such thing as equality in a parent-child relationship. My mother expected me to be in charge of the house during the week; she would take over on weekends. Oh boy.

For the rest of my college years, I took morning classes at the university on the outskirts of Tokyo, then rushed into town to teach, then had to rush back home to make dinner. My mother came home around 7:30pm, so dinner better be ready by then, or else! That's where I learned to cook dinner in 30 minutes or less.

Now, you might think that's not too bad. Which is why I want that internet group for people tormented by foodie moms.

On those days when classes went a little longer, or there was a train accident that delayed my return, I did my best to whip up dinner but with less than 30 minutes, those meals were pretty basic. Spaghetti and salad. A casserole with soup. Stir fry and rice. And did my mother cut me any slack? Heck, no. Always a fantastic cook, who expected no less from me, she would throw a mean tantrum because I did not make a lot of different dishes, the way she prefers to eat. Sometimes my kid brother would join in on the complaints.

I couldn't wait to leave but my sense of duty and obligation kept me enslaved for years.

Today, we laugh about it all. She's mellowed greatly and never chews me out anymore. But I know her tastes and eating habits have not changed at all. She still hates 2 or 3 course dinners. She still wants to have lots of tiny dishes of different flavors. She still dislikes eating "family style."

No matter how old we get, I think there's a part of us that still craves mommy's approval. Which is why I am nervous when cooking for my mother. Which is why I was on edge in Honolulu and driving Big Dog nutty. Which is why I think that if there were an internet group for people with similar experiences we could commiserate and feel better. Which is why I wrote this entry.

Happy Mother's Day!

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