Holidays are a scary time.  I wish I could say that I enjoy seeing my family, but sometimes family can be the most people difficult people to live with.  It astonishes me that we can never make it past four days before an argument erupts–like clockwork.  In the past week alone, I have incurred the wrath of my mother, twice.  Once for “not being enthusiastic for hot pot.”  Which sounds absolutely ridiculous, but trust me when I say I’ve gotten into trouble for much more trivial things.  But this post isn’t about pointing fingers and accusing each other of irrationality.  Because at the end of the day, everyone is in the wrong.  We lose patience, we let our emotions take over, we forget to show grace to the people who we love most.

Why is it that we can be so tolerant of strangers, yet so unforgiving to our own.  My friend told me recently that it’s too easy to fall back into the same old relationships when you’re at home.  It’s really true.  No matter how much I think I’ve matured while living on my own, I always catch myself slipping back with my mom; ironically, because I try to assert my “rights as an adult.”  Can you imagine how futile it is to complain about being treated like a kid when your mom won’t take you seriously because you’re acting like a kid, but only because she was treating you like a kid to begin with?  In the end, both of us are kids.

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The problem isn’t that we’ve forgotten how to share our space because we’ve been living apart for so long; it is much deeper than that.  And you can see it in every action.  It’s why dad can’t make a joke without mom taking it as a personal attack, because she still holds him against all his past mistakes.  It’s why my brother so easily flies into a rage and drives off in the middle of the night, because he can’t stand my mom’s constant criticism which fuels his fears of worthlessness.  It’s why sometimes I find myself biting my own words and suppressing my own thoughts, because I don’t expect them to be accepted.  It happens again and again, and we will be perpetually stuck like this until we finally decide to confront our problems.

I’ve told a friend once that I’ve stopped praying for my family a long time ago.  When the house is filled with the sound of cabinets slamming and screaming matches, it’s hard to imagine that God is there.  It’s much easier to tell yourself that you don’t need family.  But maybe that is where I should start, by asking God to help me love my family.  If I truly believe that He has changed who I am, then I should believe He can change anyone.  Because who are we kidding?  If we are ever to see forgiveness and redemption in this house, it would not be because of our stubborn, thick-headed, prideful selves.  It would only be by the grace of God.

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I love my mother’s dumplings.  Hers are made to perfection.  We mix ground pork, shrimp, and chives, season with some sesame oil and a bit of coriander, and then add an egg yolk for cohesion.  We chill the filling for a few hours to bring out the flavors.  My favorite part is helping my mom wrap the dumplings, which I had always done since I was as a kid.  I would sit at the kitchen counter, leisurely folding 50-60 dumplings for dinner while she busies herself around the kitchen.  Back then, it was easy to pick out the ones that I had folded.  They were clumsily made: the corners didn’t match, the seal wasn’t tight, and the crinkles were too loose.

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It’s true that my mother and I have our differences, but we also have the best of times when we get along.  It’s easy to forget the conversations we share over dumplings, the shopping trips and restaurant expeditions. They get lost when all I can hear are her disapproval and criticism.  But even as I give into frustration, I am learning to see her side of things everyday.  To imagine what it feels like to live alone in a big house, waiting for your daughter to call each night.  To stock up on an assortment of baking supplies because you know she loves to bake. To wait for her to finish playing on the computer, so that she can finally turn her attention to you.  And most importantly, to love her so much that you can’t help worrying and nagging her about every little and big thing.

I may not understand perfectly, but I understand enough to know that she loves me.

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