You never expect to run into your mother in certain places: a nightclub, a concert, or at one of those juice-detox bars that are springing up everywhere in Los Angeles. But how about in the middle of an intersection on Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills? I mean, I really ran into her....or I better say I crashed into her! Yes, with my car, in the middle of a posh residential area in the flats of Beverly Hills. Luckily she was in her car as well or I could have done serious damage.
It all happened so fast. One minute I was driving home from an appointment. The next minute two boys on their bicycles by the street corner caught my eye, and the next minute I found myself swerving my car to avoid hitting a silver Lexus that had suddenly appeared in my path. Well, you already know that I did not succeed.
The first thing that popped in my head was I hope the lady in the car is okay. "The lady" drove her car to the side of the curb and I followed. I could only see the back of her head, and from the greying hair I could tell she was an elderly woman. Needless to say, I felt even more terrible. I immediately got out of my car to apologize. I knew I had been careless and had not paid attention.
Just imagine the sheer horror in my face, and my mom's as well, when we finally saw each other. With both hands on the steering wheel, my mom leaned out of the window and squinted, "Angel, is that you?" I didn't know what to do first: pick my jaw off the floor, drive and run to my room and close the door out of sheer embarrassment, or pretend that I was not me. The afternoon sun was glaring into her face. I could tell that she was clearly shaken up. And did I tell you, I felt horrible?
Nothing had really happened to my car, but her Lexus was badly dented. I made my way towards her, my eyes downcast, "Yes it is me, Mom." The words barely come out of my mouth. As I was reaching for my mother's hand, a witness came by and asked my mom if she needed her testimony.
I ignored the question and asked, "Mom, are you okay?" My mom straightened herself up right away, patted her hair down, paused and looked down at her hands that lay once again on the steering wheel and quickly looked up at me. The mother that she is, her first instinct was to want to protect me, exonerate me of my guilt. "Yes, yes. I am okay. Are you?"
The witness interrupted us again, "Ma'am, do you need any help?" she asked. I turned to her and explained that I was her daughter.
She shook her head in disbelief, "I've never heard of anything like this!"
"I know," I sighed and turned to my mom. I got lucky; my mom wasn't hurt. We both drove off, and of course, this accident became the butt of our family's joke for the next week. I managed to get her car fixed within a week. As much as I nervously laughed and joined in on the joke with everyone, I wanted to quickly erase any evidence of what I had done.
A few weeks passed, and I was sitting next to my oldest brother at a restaurant. He was telling my husband and me how he is enjoying taking up the santur (a Persian musical instrument). His wife interjected and said, "He loves to practice, and what is so funny is that when the teacher comes the following week, he can't believe his remarkable progress."
It was no surprise to any of us. My oldest brother, along with the rest of us in the family, tends to have this laser beam focus when it comes to mastering something. Granted he seems to take first prize in that category (he skipped three grades in school and recently won in a competition in downhill skiing), we all appear to have picked this habit up from both my mom and my late father. "Believe me," I said, "by next week, he will have skipped an entire method booklet." I looked over to my brother, Jamshid, and noticed him leaning back in his chair, chuckling, first looking down at his hands, then quickly looking up.
That was it! I instantly recognized that look. I leaned in and said, "You know, this very look you just gave? Well, it's exactly the same look that mom sometimes has." "It's unbelievable," I added. I don't remember his response, or even what we talked about after that. I sat back, thinking how much I missed my mom. I mean I speak to her almost everyday, and we do see each other at least once a week. But this was a different kind of missing.
That night I went home and thought about how startled she was when I had found her after the accident, the vulnerable, yet strong look on her face. In our family, we all love each other deeply, but we've been raised in a very formal and traditional way. Outward displays of affection are reserved for big celebrations or special events. Come to think of it, in our Persian language, the word "love" is not spoken between a parent and a child or visa versa.
Blame it on my more American upbringing, my sensitivity, or even the fact that I felt bad for running into my mom. The very next day, I called my mom and asked her if I could come over her house. "Mom, I love you," I said in English over the phone. She let out a belly laugh and replied, "I love you too," in her strong Persian accent.
I felt stupid, as if I were an 8-year-old child. But I guess it doesn't matter how old you are; from time to time, you want to feel mothered. I told her I wanted to come over so that she could give me a hug. There was a pause for a few seconds. I imagined she probably thought I had fallen out of the wrong side of the bed. But her voice cracked when she said, "Come over, my little one." Being the youngest of five kids and with a petite build, my father had nicknamed me -- koochooloo, meaning little one. Once, when I was in my early 30s, I went to visit my father. Upon seeing me enter the room, he sat up, snapped his fingers, and flashed his blue eyes in delight. "Bah, bah! Koochooloo is here. She looks like she is only 18," he said. Well, I am sure I looked older than a teenager, but this goes to show that parents see their kids with different eyes. No matter how old we are, we remain their children -- beautifully preserved in their memory.
"I am waiting for you my little one," she said again, this time with a little tickle in her voice. I was smiling on the other end of the receiver. In my mind's eye I could imagine my mom first looking down and then shifting her gaze forward before saying those endearing words to me. And, looking over her shoulder while she drives on the streets of Beverly Hills!