Thursday, May 19, 2011

Painted Leaves, And Many Things Besides.

I'm still recovering from my weekend/week, friends. We had back to back grandparent visits followed by a field trip for Inara (which I volunteered to help out with before I realized how wiped out I'd be post bday celebrations), which is why this post has taken f-o-r-e-v-e-r to put together. My apologies, but here it finally is, in all it's long-length and glory...


On Nissa's bday (I'm too tired to write out the whole word.), my parents came down from Toronto to visit. It was the first time we'd seen them since they had jetted off on a seven week Tour de South Asia/Middle East. They returned to us with stories of grand adventures, along with a shipping container worth of stuff (I am exaggerating, but only a little.).

Keep in mind that I love my mom and what I am about to write in no way diminishes that feeling. If anything, I am only permitted to say what I am about to say because of how much I love love her.

That being said, my mother is nuts.

My mom and I had numerous conversations before my parents' trip. In particular, she wanted to know what she could bring back for me from the Motherland. Now herein lies the fundamental difference between my mother's and my personality. Sometimes, out of love, my mother will ask me for my opinion on matters, and then again acting out of love, she will completely ignore it.

I have no idea why she does this.

There are many things India is known for. Beautiful clothing, jewelry, exotic spices. But I don't need any of that. All I asked for was some authentic handmade Indian artwork. That's it. Nothing big or fancy, certainly nothing that would cause my mother to pay many hundreds of dollars in excess baggage fees. Just a little bit of art made by some lady in a bazaar somewhere, something that would remind me of my family's history and would fill the empty wall space in our new home. Simple request, right?


I give you...Authentic Hand-Made Ceramic...garlic bulbs?

Followed by Authentic Hand-Made Indian CHILI PEPPERS. Red hot!

I don't know how either of those qualify as art. It's possible that Mom interpreted my request for "kitchen decor" literally. Or maybe she thought I would need to ward off some spice-loving vampires in the near future. 

And that was just the beginning. Here are the clothes she brought back for the kids which I specifically told her NOT to get for us (on a gorgeous, heavenly soft blanket that she brought back from Jaipur, which I do not need but have begun to covet more than life itself. What? I'm fickle.):

I know the set (I think it's pajamas maybe?) looks so summery and sweet, but check out the size of the waistband in the pants. I could barely fit it around the hump of this stuffed camel (which incidentally, is yet another gift from my parents courtesy of a United Arab Emirates souvenir shop. Lucky us!):

That is definitely NOT export quality clothing. In fact, I think clothes like this directly affected my level of self-esteem when I was growing up: "What do you mean you can't pull it up around your ankles? Have you been eating too many samosas again, Mahreen?"

Which is why I told her specifically NOT to bring us back any clothes.

She obviously didn't listen to me. Yeah, I have no idea why a shirt from India has the word "Aloha" written on it, either.

Every set of pj's Mom brought back for her grandgirlies had a picture of a very confused looking little girl on the accompanying label. I bet this poor kid was either having an identity crisis because her clothes (and the brand of the label) were in foreign languages, or she was suffocating from the constriction of the waistband on her pants. Poor dear.

Aloha, Chicita (is that even spelled correctly?) "Slant Print" really a selling 
feature of your clothing? How unfortunate.

There were also items the girls went absolutely gaga over, which are coincidentally the same items I am planning on "losing" very shortly. Because I am a horrid, mean mommy and don't want my kids to have any fun at all with:

A real live snake charmer's flute! This thing sounds like an elephant going into labor. No joke. It needs to go.

A picture with the seven sands of the United Arab Emirates (it belongs back in the souvie shop, not in my house where it can be used as a Frisbee to be lobbed at the head of whoever is playing that detestable snake charmer's flute):

This is another present that simply has to go, because it is perhaps the worst toy ever invented in the history of the universe. I'll give you two reasons why:
1. It yells in Arabic when you shake it.
2. And it looks like a mine.

Do we really need to be propagating any more negative Muslim stereotypes, Mom? Do we really? 

It also has cut-out letters of the (English) alphabet on it, except that they are backward (mirror images of what proper letters should look like). 

That just pisses me off. 

My parents got it in Saudi Arabia and guess what? This unfortunate-looking little doohickey (we've been jokingly calling it the Islam-o-ball) was MADE IN CHINA. Oh, mommy. Say it ain't so!

My kids have a lurid fascination with this thing. It scares the living daylights out of them whenever it goes off (okay, so maybe that's not the best choice of words), yet at the same time, they can't get enough of it. I really can't keep it in the house any longer because it's SO FLIPPING LOUD, but I'm not going to let the girls take a screaming Arabic mine outside to play with either. We just moved to this neighborhood and our neighbors still think we're relatively normal. For now.

I'd like to keep it that way for just a little while longer, MOM AND DAD.

To be fair, my mom thought a great deal about picking things which she thought we'd all like, and for that I am immensely appreciative. Granted, there were a lot (!) of misses, but she also brought back some lovely little trinkets that I definitely did not ask for, yet absolutely adore:

Clay bells to hang outside on my porch (they make the most beautiful sound in the wind)...

Strands of enameled elephants! I can't get enough of these. They were meant for Inara's room but I am stealing them to go in the kitchen (take that, tacky ceramic hanging food!):

South Asian nesting dolls. Love love love, and the girls love them too. 

Wacky crazy gypsy twirly skirts that I really don't dig but the girls want to wear them every day for the rest of their lives. Especially during a rain shower, tromping through the muck and mire of a garden center. Extra especially then.

But you know, I think they might be growing on me. They make my kids feel so pretty...

...who knew I had such a little fashion plate?

 Batik stamps?!? I'll take 'em. Think of the crafting potential!

And this isn't even half of the stuff she brought back, guys. You'd be here all day if I shared it all!

My relationship with my parents is...complicated. Most of the time they drive me batty (like when they bring me piles of stuff that I really do not want or need), yet throughout it all, I remain keenly aware that I am blessed. I am blessed with the knowledge of having crazy parents who love me and my family enough to search the world over for doodads that might make us happy. And I am also blessed to have a healthy enough relationship with them to make fun of them for it. It might not always seem like it, but truly, I am thankful for it all.

(I never did get my artwork, though.)

What I originally had in mind when talking to my mom about art for the house was something similar to two pieces my mom has framed at her house. Delicate figures painstakingly hand painted onto Sacred Fig tree leaves, I always found them to be immensely captivating growing up. I thought something like that would be a beautiful conversation piece in my house, as well as a representation of my family's heritage.

My mom said it was next to impossible to find something like that during her trip, and I accepted that. But her explanation also hinted at why she over-compensated with so many gifts for us. I think she felt a little guilty for not being able to fulfill her one entrusted task. 

But she did find something else, a slightly offbeat wood and metal carved piece that she thought might be something I would like. I found it wrapped up in tissue at the almost-bottom of the last huge bag of gifts. It was...interesting.

(I reminded myself that art is subjective. And then I smiled while trying to look grateful.)

Underneath that piece however, were two cloth-wrapped bundles. Mom picked them up gingerly and as she passed them to me she said very quietly, "I'm sorry that I didn't find what you wanted, but I took these down off my walls instead. I want you to have them because I know how much they mean to you."

And they absolutely do. I love them. More than all the things my mom went hunting for overseas. I love them. And of course I feel like such an ungrateful imbecile for looking my gift mom (not a horse by any means!) in the mouth, insulting all of her thoughtful choices, and then on top of everything else, stealing the artwork off of her walls. I wanted to drown my embarrassment in a plateful of samosas right then and there.

So for the record, Mom, I do appreciate you and your over-indulgent ways. And when my girls are all grown up, making fun of everything I do for them, I will listen for the soft voice of karmic retribution reminding me that once - not so long ago - my own mother gladly did the same for me, in spite of me being an ass. And then I will smile for a moment and think of you, Mama. I always, always will...especially when I look at this exquisite Peepal leaf.

I never told you this, Mom, but when I was little, I always thought that the lady on the leaf was mesmerizing because her serene beauty reminded me of you.

Thank you, Mom. Thank you for hearing me, even when I thought you weren't listening.

Oh, and by the way, I happen to have some Authentic Handmade Indian Ceramic Food that would be perfect for filling the spots where your painted leaves used to hang...
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