My mom is quite jaded when it comes to romantic love. The only piece of advice she gives me is that I should find someone who loves me more than I love them as if love is a power struggle based on affection.
However, my mom taught me the value of friendship through her own friendships. My mom is amazing at making and keeping good friends. Whenever she goes, she seems to be able to make friends easily. At the supermarket, she shares recipes with the woman next to her while choosing the freshest fish. While waiting at the doctor’s office, she shares home remedies to cure any known ailments. When she meets my friends’ Vietnamese-speaking parents, they bond over the troubles their children gives them. She has her work friends, her gym friends, her park friends, her church friends, her temple friends (we’re like a Buddhist-Catholic cultural fusion family; hence both church and temple friends), the friends she met while immigrating to the US, amongst her millions of other friends. My sister and brother have inherited the ability to connect easily with people, but I need a bit more time to warm up.
Not only does she make friends easily, but she also takes care of her friendships. Some of her friends do not drive, but my mom never hesitates to offer them a ride to the grocery store, the temple, or the fish market. Or when my mom sees a sale on fruits one of her friends loves, she would buy it for her friend. Not to mention all of the times my mom hosts home-cooked meals and barbecues for her friends. (She also never hesitates to offer the babysitting services of my sister and me while they go frolic somewhere.)
She has an amazing relationship with her friends. With one set of friends, they have cheesy nicknames for each other based on titles used in Ancient Vietnam. They have also been on a spontaneous, crazy trip to Mexico in the pre-kids period. My mom claims that she told me everything that has happened there, but I don’t believe her. Whenever they mention Mexico, there seems to be both tons of laughter yet a mysterious hush hush when us kids are close enough to eavesdrop. When our family was having trouble, her best friend (and my second mom) took us in (a family of four!) and helped us back to our feet.
And what’s more miraculous is that she manages to keep in touch with them all, at least with her closer ones. A friend my mom immigrated to the US with and her former roommate (now living in New Mexico) still talks monthly about potential arranged marriages between their children (my mom has now rejected the offers since hearing her son is short). My second mom and my mom always talks about their kids, their jobs, family gossip, and future trips to see each other (my mom’s BFF moved to Arizona…a few years after my family moved back to California from Arizona). And when she heard that one of her friends had a health problem, my mom put away their differences from a fight to visit her.
Recently, my mom seriously injured her shoulder, something that has been building up for years from all of her sweatshop working days and her manicurist/masseuse job. (Please send her good vibes.) The doctor has ordered her to stay home and refrain from work/lifting heavy things/driving/etc. Although she is in a lot of pain, I noticed that many of her friends have came to help her out. Some drive her to the doctor or to the market. Some cook soups and veggies for her. Some brought food for her. All day long she receives phone calls from friends asking about her progress. These events inspired this post.
As I meet new friends and say goodbye (for now) to old friends, I worry about whether our friendship will last. True, there are friends that you can just reunite with after a long time with no awkwardness at all. But, there are also many other friends who disappear and just become people you wonder about time to time. Or it seems like romantic relationships and children widen the distance between friends. Hopefully, I learn from my mom’s example and make new friends and keep old ones irregardless of what life throws at us. I hope my friends know that they can always rely on me, and I hope that I’m perceptive of their feelings and needs in our friendship. And I hope in tough times, I can also call on them.
Although my mom did not teach me about romantic love, she taught me the value of friendship, which to me, is equally important. (This is one of the reasons why I hate most portrayal of friendships in the media. Other than male-male friendships, most portrayals seem terrible. It seems like all male-female friendships have to turn into romance. And all female-female friendships revolve around and end because of beauty, boys, and children. These friendships are more dynamic than that!) So if you think I’m a good friend, you gotta thank my mom.
What did the people who raised you teach you about friendship? How did you learn how to be a friend?