The Language of Shooting Stars

image“You speak the language of shooting stars, more surprising than sunrise, more brilliant than the sun, as brief as sunset. I want to follow its trail to eternity.” -Amy Tan

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.

20 thoughts on “The Language of Shooting Stars

  1. I have never read Amy Tan before, now i might have to check her out.

    I love how you pair your images and quotes. I think you are going to be just fine with this mother-bear thing 🙂


    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence Love! I do think you would really enjoy Amy Tan. She writes a lot about mother/daughter dynamics. I hope you’re having a great day pal.


    1. Thank you so much Dora! Do you see similarities too with your upbringing and these passages? I often wonder if it’s really a cultural thing or if it’s just the nature of my relationship with my mother…I guess we’ll never really know if those are two separate experiences.


    1. I’m so happy to hear that! Maybe I’m misunderstanding her completely. She’s not writing about the Chinese-American experience. She’s writing about the love between a mother and a daughter. Ethnicity aside. I like that. Thanks so much for the re-frame. I appreciate your feedback!


  2. This is the opposite of the lyrics to Reba McEntyre’s “Fancy,” in which the dying mother urges her daughter to be a prostitute and not “let her down.” I thought I already was raised with enough fear and worry, but I can’t imagine fears of being smashed like a fish or told about babies in garbage cans. !! My best friend’s mother took us to see The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas when we were 10, and boy, did it look like fun to work in a whorehouse!


      1. I was only teasing. I always like to hear what’s on your mind, you know that. I’m sorry this saddened you. Wasn’t my intention! xoxo


  3. OK, so one man had to jump in and be, well, man enough to comment on this one. Guess who? hahahahaha.

    I will share a secret, on the threat of being drummed out of my side of the aisle.

    One thing that can scare the heck out of us is the sacred and mysterious mother-daughter relationship.

    Thank you for shedding some light on yours, Sandra, and for illuminating further with the words of Amy Tan. Still. Mysterious. Sacred.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let’s have a warm round of applause for the one male brave enough to dip his toe into the female dominated conversation. Mark as you may have heard, commenting improves quality of life so I am very glad to see you taking good care of yourself. Your thoughts and opinions are always welcome dear friend, regardless of the topic. I appreciate you stopping by to say hello, hermano!


  4. Isn’t it interesting how an experience so rooted in cultural identity can cross over to another culture?

    Also, I love your phrasing of the Lewis Carroll bender. I’m going through a similar one in our house, though it’s by reading the children’s book Jabberwocky, by Jennifer Adams, over and over and over for Peeper. (In it, the Jabberwocky is quite nice, though: He eats flowers and has a rainbow tail/wings.)


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