It has taken me a long time to write something for my Mom’s birthday. I didn’t want to simply point back to my Dad’s birthday and say that all the lines about love also ring 110% true for Mom. It is true, but it wouldn’t be complete. Make no mistake – Mom is the most amazing woman on earth (aside from my sisters, who just so happen to be exactly like her), I love her, and I know she loves me. It’s just that Mom deserves a new, original tribute, and I am at a loss. I may be able to rant and rave for paragraph after paragraph about food, restaurants, and my pathetic, attention-starved life, but I am not very good at expressing my feelings about the people I love in an I-love-you, sentimentally weepy Hallmark greeting card sort of way.
It wouldn’t even be fair to simply write “I love my Mom,” for that doesn’t communicate anything about her. I love my Mom; so what? Who doesn’t love the woman who did for you the equivalent of successfully squeezing a watermelon through a garden hose for 20 hours?!? Every child loves his or her mother, even if the mother is, from a purely human society standpoint, a sucky person. It doesn’t do any justice to my Mom’s awesomeness as a person to ramble on and on about how much I love her. Mom deserves so much better than that because truly, ignoring the fact for a moment that I might be biased, my mother is an amazing woman. Period.
You know that woman who walks into a room and everyone turns to look because something in the air changes? Or the boss who somehow makes you want to sincerely work hard? Or your best friend who is #1 on your speed dial whom you call after every major or minor victory/failure in you life? That is my Mom. Whether she’s at a black-tie cocktail party or a backyard barbecue, the way she dresses (always classy, a little sassy), the way she carries herself, the way she laughs out loud – it is magical. She’s a gentle five-star general, a savvy CEO, a lovely Lady Who Lunches, a talented artist, a beautiful terror on Rodeo Drive, a sensation on the back nine in her inverted satellite-dish-for-a-visor, a masterful gardener who can get down in the dirt and coax the most gorgeous orchids out of a pile of dead stems that had no hope before she met them. She is Superwoman. She’s an attentive, active listener who knows exactly when and what to say to make you feel smarter, prettier, nicer – so much better than you did 20 minutes ago when you first started talking to her. She makes me feel like her favorite daughter, even though I have two sisters who I am sure feel like they are her favorites, too (But really, I know I am her favorite. No, really, trust me. I am).
Mom doesn’t love to cook, for she’d much rather get dressed up a little and go out on the town for dinner, but when she does cook, it’s always delicious. When we were little, she used to squat down on the kitchen floor with a giant plastic tub between her knees to make kimchee, hand wrap hundred upon hundreds of tiny little mahn-doo, grind mung beans herself to make bean-dae-dduk, marinate pounds of galbee and bulgogi, and slow cook meat and bones for deeply flavorful soups. She doesn’t have to do that anymore since much of it is readily available at local Asian markets, but I always look forward to our Delicious family dinners at home when I know she’s making everything from scratch. Every Korean dish in my personal repertoire is from my Mom. Okay, so there’s the whole Spam and canned Clam Chowder thing, but you know, she is part human, too
Though maybe not quite so much for dabbling in the kitchen, I have to credit my Mom for much of the dining out part of my Delicious Life. I learned to love and enjoy going out to eat by watching my Mom. She has exquisite taste and loves the finer things, but is never snobby about food. Sometimes she needs to have a medium-rare filet mignon with a $60 Cab (thats $60 for a glass), and sometimes she is perfectly happy with a double-double, animal-style, “Eat in the car!” She is the one who taught me that dining out is not just merely about how the food tastes. Dining out is about enjoying the entire experience – food, service, ambience, and most importantly, the people with whom you are sharing the experience. Though half of my taste preferences come from my Dad – a wicked sweet tooth, a shark-like appetite for fishy, oily, stinky fish, and brothy soups, the other half, are a direct reflection of Mom. She and I both love spicy foods that are so hot that they make us weep tears of fire, that can’t be put out with no less than 80 proof.
When it comes down to it, Mom finds the fun in everything. I am talking Ev. Ree. Thang. It’s an uncanny ability that translates from fun to beauty to good to whatever is positive about the darkest, dreariest, saddest, ugliest thing placed in front of her. I hate LA for around-the-clock “slow”-hour traffic, outrageous overcrowding, ridiculous real estate, and the obsession with Hollyweird. Mom loves LA for the year-round golf and gardening weather, and because our entire family is within 45 minutes of each other. I hate how short, fat, blotchy-pasty-white-skinned, disproportionate I am. Mom tells me there is nothing a little lip gloss and some designer shoes can’t do for anyone. And you know what? She is always absolutely right.
Like almost every other female, I started to dread my birthday after 29, but Mom loves birthdays, hers included. She loves to open presents, and no matter what stupid garage-sale-bound tchotchke is wrapped up inside, she squeals with utter delight, as if you found the one and only thing on this planet that she lives and dies for. “You don’t know how much I needed this keychain so I can keep my house and car keys separate!” (The keychain could have been 99 cents and have a photo of someone else’s ugliest, fattest pet pug ever.) When I regretfully apologized that I didn’t bake a birthday cake for her the past weekend when we got together to celebrate, hers was not disappointment, but a sincere reaction that made me feel like I was a world reknown pastry chef – she always loves anything I make. We had to go next door to Viktor Bene’s inside Gelson’s for *sigh* a $30 supermarket cake, but she exclaimed how beautifully decorated the mango mousse cake was, how much she loves mango, and it must have been so expensive!, how we all need to eat fruit, how light and perfect it was after such a filling lunch. How does she do that?!?! It’s magic.
Mom is a wonder with people, which makes her the consummate businesswoman, and more importantly, the perfect wife for my Dad. I write about both my parents, but usually, I am poking fun at how my Dad calls himself the Captain of our family. Let’s be serious here. Someone who calls himself the Captain is a hard man to deal with. Somehow, Mom has the patience of a saint, the wily skill of a fox, and did I mention the patience of a saint (?) when dealing with my Dad. And since my Dad and I are exactly alike, Mom knows how to deal with me, too.;) It’s not just adult people either; it’s small people, too. This part I never understood, but I think my Mom speaks Baby Babble, because she can communicate with teeny tiny babies. My niece will scream her head until she’s all shades of pissed-off blue and purple, but my Mom will say three words to her, and my niece is cooing again like a tiny pink bunny. Even my younger cousins love when Mom visits. Every one of them vies for her attention, wanting to have their time with her, telling her all their secrets, none of which, of course, she ever reveals to me (Sarah! I can’t tell you! They’re secrets!)
Obviously, Mom is a fabulous mother, and though I sometimes point out her “typical Korean mom” characteristics, she really is nothing like a typical Korean mom. However, I won’t go into those details today. What am I going to write about come Mother’s Day?!?! She certainly has her flaws, as nobody is perfect (though she comes damn near close), but I have learned from her that it’s better to focus on the fabulous things about something or someone. It’s extremely difficult to encapsulate all the awesomeness that is my Mom into one post, though. This is just the beginning. It would take an entire year of daily entries on a whole separate blog site. Maybe two years.
I can only hope to be half as amazing of a woman as my Mom.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.