Read time: 6 minutes
I think our hearts always skip a beat when the phone rings in the middle of the night. During the early nineties, when phones were tethered to the walls and had long coiled cords, my dad received a call from family in Bangladesh. At the other end of the static line was commotion: my mom’s parents and her older brother died in a car accident. The middle brother was driving everyone home from the rural countryside, down an unlit and narrow dirt path. There were blinding beams driving towards them. Nervous, he took a sharp turn and lost control. The brother who was driving was the only one to survive. His trials after the death of his parents and eldest brother are a different, incredible story.
I don’t know what happened that night. I was barely a year old and my mom’s first child. My mom was also her parents’ first child. Her parents were eager grandparents, waiting for that surreal moment to see their first grandchild. By the time I was old enough to travel, they passed away. Within a few days, my mother took the next flight to Bangladesh – tugging baby me along. It was not a after thought but a reflex for her to return to see her younger siblings after their loss.
Is it a sad gift or horrifying realization to not be aware of the last time you see your parents breathing?
My aunts and uncles raised me with only smiles during that time in Bangladesh. I have acute yet hazy memories of outfits they would change me into, the ice creams they fed me. My mom remembers giving away her mother's saris to relatives and the poor. My grandmother was a fashionable woman and very absent in shaping her children’s lives. My grandfather was an 80’s version of a yuppie. I still meet people who remember his charm and intellect. All the respect my grandparents had from the community was given to my mom after the vigor she displayed. She and her siblings all turned out to be some excellent humans.
Her brothers and sisters revere and respect her to its highest definition. Even as adults now, her siblings wash her plate, endure her strange commands but still enjoy her as a silly sister. There is an unspoken connection between us, outside of the blood we share. Watching them mature and lead new lives shaped my own values. To my uncles and aunts, I’m the life that came to them after their loss. It was not until recently that I became mindful of this.
I can’t help but wonder how life chooses to work out sometimes. My grandparents married my mom to my dad at a considerably young age. My mom went back to Texas with my dad. There were no financial or social issues in her family; there was no reason for her to marry so soon but it happened. I think more than often, we behave intuitively and subconsciously. But because of it, she was able to lead two lives after her parents’ passing. She set her siblings up with a wonderful life before heading back to America to raise me to have her own wonderful life.
Now, she wants her oldest daughter of four to become everything she is, if not more. Unfortunately, I’m realistic. My mom's energy in life and for life is unmatched. My life is a series of attempts to be my mom, except for one aspect: I have no desire to pursue or rush something as coincidental as marriage.
She talks about how she got married too early; to a man she learned to love. She doesn’t want that for me, she wants what I want. Yet, the deeper I get into my twenties, the more smothered I feel by her concerns. She wonders if any of us can successfully manage our two cultures, our religions, and fight against the staggering divorce rates in America. Will women continue raise their voices for a place in the social ranks? These are her concerns; these are many of our concerns. It's become more than that.
Within the past year, my moms concern over my single hood has blossomed into full-fledged paranoia. Initially, I was mostly offended by this concern: does she really think I’m never going to be desirable enough? Other times, I pin it to my South Asian cultural roots. Unlike her siblings, I still doubt her wisdom. I doubt her because I’m mostly an idiot and her child, genetically tailored to question her.
Our marriage conversations have reached a weekly frequency. But as my frustration levels peak, I’m now cognizant of this: my mom is afraid. I had my 24th birthday a few days ago. My mom had me at 24 and when she was 25, she lost her parents. My mom is strong but me not married has her crashing back to her past fears. What if she also never sees grandkids? She is consumed by wanting this form of assurance: to know that I'd never go through her trials alone. And though a worried mother's delusion is expected, I wonder if she is consciously aware that her past drives her to this madness. My mom wants life to continue working out and I suppose that’s how mothers think.