Published on October 28th, 2022 | by Lisa Lim0
Mi Madre: Part I, The Love Story
She told me her name was Wonder Woman. Yeah right! She’s skinny and you’re not! I was ruthless as a child. It’s hard not to be when your parents are divorced and you don’t know why. Plus, she had a heavy Spanish accent. I was no fool. She had large brown tortoise glasses and big bouncy curls. And where the hell was her invisible jet. But she insisted she was Wonder Woman so much so, we called her “Wonder” for years. My grandmother who didn’t speak a lick of English even called her Wanda. Of course in a heavy Chinese accent that mi Madre never understood.
When my father and Wonder first started dating, they would meet in his red Dodge 75 on the corner of 14th and 1st right beside the Con Edison electrical power plant. The red car felt like a traveling no tell motel. It was large and always smelled like pine cones from the pine tree air fresheners my father hung up like mistletoes. The power plant was their version of the romantic dark alley. I remember being mesmerized by the clouds of smoke blowing out of the giant smokestacks. My brother and I would sit in the back entertained by this awesome sight while my father snapped his Hubba Bubba gum loudly, all while waiting for his date, Wonder.
Mi Madre and my father met at work, at an electronics manufacturing company. My father was the head of quality control and my mi Madre was a soldering specialist known for her killer circuit board skills. Those days, my father smoked like a chimney polishing off two packs a day. My mother wanted him to quit because she hated how cigarette smoke got trapped inside his polyester suits. She said he smelled like wet doggy. To help him quit smoking, she would offer him a piece of gum whenever he came over to review her work. She kept a stash in her pocketbook, and a little mirror near her desk to monitor his arrival. The rest was history. My mother always said it was their signs that brought them together. Not the smoking. I mean how could a Leo resist an Aries, she’d say. Of course, she was the Aries.
Wonton Noodle Soup Along the East River
Inside the car, we always came prepared with piping hot food from Chinatown. Wonton noodle soup for everyone and coffee for Wonder. We’d drive to the nearby East River, back when it was a garbage dump filled with ravenous seagulls who made a game out of pooping on our car while we slurped up noodles. Afterwards we would make a game out of who could toss our empty wonton containers farthest into the river. I never won. Of course, I still feel terrible. We were lawless back then. We imagined the city was a dustbin. Today I recycle.
Duct Taping Shoes
Every shoe my father owned was ripped apart by his bulging bunions. It was as if tiny mice had chewed a hole through his shoes. I remember my grandmother’s rheumatic hands diligently mending his bunion-torn shoes with duct tape. She used duct tape to fix everything, from dangling hems of pants to broken shoes. Mi Madre didn’t like that everyone made fun of him at work because of his duct taped shoes and pants. She couldn’t stand that he was a Momma’s boy allowing my grandmother to rule his fashion. Mi Madre made my father throw out his shoes and take off his pants so she could perfectly stitch them up. Once she was done, my father looked a “handsome doggy” she liked to say.
Mi Madre taught me a lot about love. She told me that a man who really loves you buys you a Coca-Cola. That’s how she knew my father loved her. She would give him gum to stop smoking. He would buy her cans of Coca-Cola to keep her caffeinated. It was their version of a romantic red rose, but it was aluminum and filled with sweet and fizzy caffeine that made her heart race. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I believed her love story and whenever a boy bought me a Coca-Cola, I secretly thought he loved me.
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First published on Raising Mothers