March 8th, 13:35 | You can't throw that out -- it's retro chic!
There was a time when I wondered if my parents actually loved each other. I mean, despite the fact that my mom married totally outside her culture, and embraced all the communication problems that caused, the fact that my dad adapted to all these rituals and customs that living with my mom (and her family, who are all around her now) brought with it, there was a time when I seriously wondered whether my parents actually loved each other. They just never seemed to do the things that parents on tv did, you know? They didn't kiss when my dad got home, right after he didn't yell "Honey, I'm home!" and they didn't hold hands in public. My dad didn't run around to open the passenger door for my mom when they drove around together, or buy her little presents for no good reason. I got her flowers more often than he did.
It got to the point where whenever I heard them argue about anything, I'd take it as a sign, and still more proof that they didn't really love each other, but were staying together for my sake. As soon as I was good and reared, and had a life (and possibly husband) of my own, they'd go their separate ways (in the case of my mom, possibly all the way back to Hong Kong) and would both be much happier.
(I'm going to point out that this is when I was pretty young; it's making my parents sound a bit like cruel and apathetic monsters. I chalk it up to being an only child and all that.)
After awhile, I started noticing things. The way my mom would glow and be bright and happy and hug and kiss my dad when he got back from business trips. The way that, even though they don't hold hands, my mom usually holds my dad's arm when they go shopping. The fact that, although my dad doesn't buy her random gifts, per se, if there's anything of hers that is broken, and she tells him about it, he'll fix it near-immediately; despite his endless list of to-fix and to-build projects, her stuff always comes first. When her shoulders started acting up, and she commented that she wished she could practice her physio with the pulley at home too, two days later a rope-and-pulley contraption appeared in the middle of the hallway.
I got used to the idea that my parents may not be in love in the Hollywood, fire-and-passion-of-youth kind of way, but that there was definite affection and companionship in their consideration of each other. Last summer, out in Halifax, we spent a couple days with RecentEx, and he said he liked the way my parents were together. He said it was really cool, that he could really tell they cared about each other.
At the time I had no idea what he was on about. I was still suffering from my perception of how "normal" parental couples behave. RecentEx's parents, for example, were much bigger on the PDA front, and were also constantly teasing each other and taking small digs, sharing inside jokes. This, due mostly to tv, I suppose, struck me as being much more "normal" than my parents' way of showing they care.
In preparation for the upcoming move, my dad's been cleaning out the basement. He's unearthed all kinds of dishes and old hardware, some of my old stuffed toys (I'm so happy! my plush dog (that was bigger than me) that I thought had been thrown out lives!!) but mostly lots and lots of dishes, serving plates and bowls, tea sets, etc. He brought up a couple to show my mom, to see if she wanted to keep any (no), and they laughed at how old (and incredibly '70s) some of the stuff was. One of the bowls was packed with a piece of a 1977 Montreal Star, completely discoloured and now crispy with age. (Packing paper that's older than I am; Whoa.)
This launched my parents onto a kind of "do you remember" kick, and my mom found the stem for a set of stacking plates that her hospital at the time had given her as a wedding gift (the plates of which were in our kitchen cupboard) mis-packed, like twenty years ago, in another box. "You must have packed that one," she informed my dad, as she put the plate set together, to look at it.
It's a little weird to think of my parents as the typical happy, excited newlyweds, just because they tend to mute and non-verbalize the way they feel about each other. I was thinking the other day about how RecentEx was so word-dependant, but also that his family is very vocal with how they feel. I'm quite certain my parents have told me (in words) that they love me less than ten times (each) in my recollection. I still know it though, because they express it a million times a day in other ways. Hopefully I'm equally successful at getting how I feel across. I thought it was strange that it could be so obvious to RecentEx that my parents loved each other, but that for him, he needed to hear it in words from me. (Which tended to work out badly, because he expressed it in words for me, which tends not to be as meaningful; for me, words lose sincerity when you use them too often.)
Anyway, they're out buying bread now, and probably still joking about the time when they were living in Montreal. It's good to see them all cute, and happy. In the "adventure" of packing up, and setting up a new house, I can kind of see an echo of (what I imagine to be) the carefree, newlyweds they used to be. My parents are so cute!!
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