Monday, November 14, 2011

Rituals, Love, Acceptance and Rejection

My mama and I have a weekly ritual. I drive 50 miles to her house every Saturday morning. We nearly always have the same thing for lunch, and our conversations often revolve around the same topics. Sometimes I could swear we have the same conversation verbatim -- I have a sense of deja vu often.

On Saturday nights, I take mama out to dinner. We usually have the fine company of her lovely friend Anna Jean. Week before last we were on our own, though, and we decided to go to the Norm's that recently opened near her home. For those of you not from Southern California, Norm's is an institution, a modern day diner with hints of the past. The food is plentiful, pretty tasty, and reasonably priced.

As I wheeled mama into the restaurant she was afraid we'd wait forever because it was crowded, but there are more booths than tables, and since she uses her wheelchair whenever we go out, we often move to the front of the line since we need a table.

We'd been seated about five minutes when a young family with a baby came in and were seated behind us. Mama loves babies, so I told her that a baby had come in and she couldn't see him, but I'd make sure to wheel her in the best direction to say hi to him when we left. The father, a very proud papa, overheard me, and he brought the baby to meet mama. He took the three month old baby boy out of his carrier and gently held him against my mom's chest so she could not only see the baby, but feel him and smell that sweet baby smell.

I was holding my breath, first with the awe of the kindness of the young man. I didn't think I'd said it very loud, but mama is nearly deaf, so I must have. A man at the next table over asked the proud papa if he was going to show the child to everyone in the restaurant. And, that proud papa walked that little baby to every table in our section. Smiles everywhere, the brightest of which belonged to mama.

There was another reason I was holding my breath. My mama is nearly 90, and she was born south of the Mason-Dixon line in the early 1920s. Though she's much more aware and accepting of diversity than someone of her origins might be, she still holds some unfair stereotypes. The proud papa was covered in tattoos, the sort typically associated with gangs and/or time in prison. She didn't say anything except, "thanks, your baby is adorable." I exhaled.

After dinner, I wheeled her across the parking lot to the new Super King supermarket. She said very quietly, "He didn't want those. They made him get them," referring to the tattoos. I leaned over and kissed her cheek and murmured, "probably so, Mama, probably so."

We walked into Super King, a large and brand spanking new store with many products marketed to the Latino majority in her town. Mama had just been so amazing about the proud papa with the tattoos, and she loves the Latino family who live across the street from her and keep a loving eye on her. When we were in the bread aisle, I picked up a loaf of Bimbo brand bread (Bimbo is a teddy bear and the label on the bread was in Spanish). Bless her heart, she refused to let me buy Bimbo brand bread for her. She was not interested in any bread called Bimbo, because all good feminists know that it's not good to be a bimbo. I just had to chuckle while I looked for "American" bread.