I guess the Lewis Carroll bender I wore out awhile back has launched into an Amy Tan jag. My intro to Tan was The Joy Luck Club before I went away to college. I was so happy to discover that the Chinese-American experience closely resembled the way I felt as a Mexican-American; somehow I found that comforting. I read all of her work and decided that her mother and mine must have taken the same parenting classes. For example:
“Thanks to my mother, I was raised to have a morbid imagination. When I was a child, she often talked about death as warning, as an unavoidable matter of fact. Little Debbie’s mom down the block might say, ‘Honey, look both ways before crossing the street.’ My mother’s version: ‘You don’t look, you get smash flat like sand dab.’ (Sand dabs were the cheap fish we bought live in the market, distinguished in my mind by their two eyes affixed on one side of their woebegone cartoon faces.)
The warnings grew worse, depending on the danger at hand. Sex education, for example, consisted of the following advice: ‘don’t ever let boy kiss you. You do, you can’t stop. Then you have baby. You put baby in garbage can. Police find you, put you in jail, then you life over, better just kill youself.”
That last part especially is pretty much verbatim my mother’s parting words before my first day of High School. I’m not implying that I will do a better job at this mother bear thing. Frankly, the thought alone of how that coming of age conversation will go scares the hell out of me. So instead, let’s get back to Tan:
“I saw what I had been fighting for: It was for me, a scared child, who had run away a long time ago to what I had imagined was a safer place. And hiding in this place, behind my invisible barriers, I knew what lay on the other side: Her side attacks. Her secret weapons. Her uncanny ability to find my weakest spots. But in the brief instant that I had peered over the barriers I could finally see what was there: an old woman, a wok for her armor, a knitting needle for her sword, getting a little crabby as she waited patiently for her daughter to invite her in.”
Now if you’ll please excuse me. I need to invite my mother over. It’s been too long.