Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Mother's Day Memory

My seventh birthday was coming up. I told my mom that I wanted to have it at Putt Putt Golf, the local mini golf center in Tallahassee where I grew up. It was going to be my first birthday party outside our home, and I had been absolutely set on Putt Putt ever since attending a friend’s party there just a few months prior. I was an entirely unoriginal kid. But my mom—she went to work planning and preparing my special day because it was what I wanted.
Looking back, it must’ve been a small leap for my parents, too. My family was only a year or two removed from living off my dad’s grad student stipend of 800 dollars per month. So spending money to host a kid’s birthday bash was a fairly new concept for them. Unfortunately for my mom, she was unknowingly engaged in a losing battle. I think in retrospect, I really wasn’t looking forward to celebrating my own birthday as much as I was hoping to re-enact the birthday party I had previously attended. Like a lot of kids, I simply wanted to do all the cool things everyone else had done.
Well, my mom invited all my closest friends, and we all gathered on the 18-hole course. My parents paid for everyone’s putters, and immediately, I knew something was wrong. You see, my friend’s party featured this young, excited mini golf employee who led everyone through introductory birthday activities, cheered us on at each hole, and handed out prizes. I remember looking around, and feeling indignant about receiving only a club and a ball. So I hounded my mom about how she had messed up the planning and how critical it was to have this silly worker leading all the fun. My parents ended up asking the management, who informed them that the goofy teenager with the official golf visor was only included in the more expensive birthday package.  I was crestfallen. It’s embarrassing how clearly I can recall the overwhelming disappointment I felt from a birthday nearly two decades ago. But then, I doubt many of us are especially proud of what emotional maturity we displayed as seven-year-olds.
I’m not sure why certain memories seem to randomly stick with us more than others. But I’ve grown to appreciate this one, because it illustrates a lot of what my mom embodies. She has always worked quietly, moved tirelessly to provide the best for my brother and I, regardless of how consistently unappreciative we have been in return. And I know she has always worried herself with notions that she was somehow failing to provide us with key opportunities afforded to other kids—either because of financial limitations, or because her lack of familiarity with aspects of American culture. I’m sure it probably broke her heart a little when her seven-year-old son made clear that his birthday wasn’t of the same caliber as his peers’.
For this, mom, I apologize. If ever I could sit down with my seven year old self, I would tell him that the only time he should ever feel disappointment is if he lets you down. In fact, I would tell him that his only job in the entire world is to make you proud—to do right by you. And if he could just do that, he will grow up to be more than okay. He might even one day realize he’s no longer that thankless punk, but a man who owes you the world. You’ve given me everything, mom, I love you, and I hope you have a happy Mother’s Day.


  1. I love this post! I have so many memories like this - and similar feelings of shame. I think it's a common experience that we share as 2nd generation immigrants with parents who worked tirelessly to make our childhoods as "normally" American as possible. And also one of the main reasons why we are now soooo grateful to our parents.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Really cool post, Jay. I have a similar memory from my childhood. You really expressed the feelings well and made the lessons very poignant.

  3. What a jerk. Glad you finally came around, wouldn't have wanted to be friends with t h a t guy.

    JK. :). I know what you mean. I told Lam a few days ago that I'm slightly jealous of my siblings, because when my mom passed away, they had already grown out of their punk stages and had sweet moments of maturity with my mom. My last year of memories with my mom are filled with me being a jerk, while she patiently absorbed it and prayerfully lifted my stubborn attitude up to God. My mom's death was too premature in that. I wish I had matured by then. I never had the opportunity to balance out my punkness and prove to her my affections.

    But you have the opportunity to. You have the future to shower your mama with your love and appreciation :).

  4. Reading this made me more human. Standing O to both you and Tina for your honesty.


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