A Special Occasion

Today is my last day off and I decided to spend at least the first part of it celebrating my mom’s birthday.

If there’s anything a person should do at least once in their lifetime, it’s to have lunch with one or both of their parents. I’m 31 years old and this would be my first time actually taking my mom out to lunch. I’d debated back and forth about where I wanted to take her. Somewhere nice like the Grand Lux Cafe at the Galleria? Maybe La Madeleine at Northpark? Decisions. I try to make it my life’s work to know the people I love so that when it came to gift giving time, I would be able to give them something they would like, not just something fancy or expensive. I finally settled on First Chinese BBQ. It was Asian food, which I knew she would enjoy, and it was something (to my knowledge) she’d never had before. Also, it was inexpensive. My mom wouldn’t have let me pay the entire bill at a fancy restaurant, and if I did, she would feel bad and I didn’t want her to feel bad on her birthday.

Last night, I called her on my way home from the concert to ask her about lunch. After a few minutes of chatting, she asked, “What day is today? Monday?” She laughed. “I can’t remember what day it is because I fell asleep this afternoon and I woke up thinking it was the next morning.”

“Hah, it’s Sunday,” I said. “We’re having lunch tomorrow.”

“Ok ok,” she said. And then a few minutes later, she asked again, “We’re having lunch later?”

I laughed. “No, mom, lunch is tomorrow. Right now it’s Sunday night.”

“Oh yeah!” she said, laughing. “I don’t remember anymore.”

I woke up super early this morning mostly in anticipation and also because I’m used to waking up early now. I walked Izzie, showered, put on my makeup, changed, and was on my way out the door (I had to run a couple errands before driving out to my parents’ house 30 minutes away).

When I arrived, my mom answered the door with curlers in her hair. She was already dressed with shoes and everything. Dad had a doctor’s appointment so he wasn’t home at the time, although later Mom said he’d wished he’d taken a day off so he could come with us. I think he felt a little left out. After giving their dog a treat, we were on our way out the door.

First Chinese BBQ was about half an hour away from their house. It was Chinese barbecue, food that my mom and dad don’t have easy access to in their part of town. So she let me do the ordering since she’s had no idea what to eat. We ended up getting the standard stuff: barbecue Chinese pork, roast duck, sauteed Chinese broccoli, and crispy tofu stuffed with shrimp.

Conversation was steady. She and I don’t really get to have one-on-one conversations all the time unless we’re on the phone, which is maybe once a week or once every other week depending on if I see them on Saturdays. We talked about everything ranging from family to upcoming holidays. We even determined what her Chinese astrological sign was (a boar) according to the paper place mats and learned that she actually married her ideal mate (a rabbit) despite the fact that her sign description said she was prone to marital strife. She didn’t think that last part was true, but I kinda laughed, recalling how many times she got mad at Daddy for buying stuff without consulting her 🙂

We had quite a lot of leftovers, which we packed up. We even ordered something to go for my dad to make him feel less excluded. After the waitress left with our additional order, she leaned over the table and asked in a quiet tone, “Do they accept tips here?” I smiled and nodded. She was too cute. She insisted on leaving the tip since I wouldn’t let her pay for any of the meal, including dad’s food.

When we paid, she was thoroughly impressed that all the food we ordered was just under $40. That’s when I knew I had chosen the right place. We drove home with food in hand and belly’s full. Back at the house, my dad still hadn’t come home yet from his doctor’s appointment. So I hugged her, wished her a happy birthday and headed home.

Throughout the meal and even afterwards, I debated whether or not I wanted to take a picture of her or of us together, but I never did. Taking pictures of people is something I still feel weird about, especially when it’s in an intimate setting like lunch out with my mom. I feel intrusive, almost, when holding a camera. I haven’t gotten over that shyness despite the many years I’ve been taking photo (not entirely–though I do have moments of brilliance where my courage comes through). Thinking back though, I wish I had taken that picture. But for now, I’ll just have my memories and these words to remember this day.

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