The first time I really saw my parents, my impression was, “Gosh they are so young.” I had known my parents all my life, but never really looked at them until the day I stepped into the meeting area of Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok where they were waiting to greet me.
I hadn’t seen them for five years as I had been so engrossed in my schoolwork abroad. Perhaps I had grown or the Lasik surgery had worked a miracle, because the two people standing before me were not the parents I had known. They appeared to be actual people, not just parental figures who were always doing parenting things. And to my amazement, they were not as old as they had been.
When I was a young teen, I had wondered with irritation, or sometimes embarrassment, why they acted the way they did. The way my mother dressed, for example, always seemed questionable to me. She loved gardening and would spend the weekends weeding, pruning or mowing the lawn. That was all well and good, but her gardening attire was not. She wore shorts, a sleeveless shirt, sunglasses and a big colorful hat. Let me explain: In my Asian country several decades ago, “old” women didn’t go around in shorts, donning sunglasses.
My parents’ choice of entertainment was another embarrassment. They liked to disco dance (this was in the ’70s when it was hip). I wouldn’t have minded it if they had disco danced among their friends, but they discoed at our family parties — New Year’s Eve and summer parties — attended by my friends and theirs. “I didn’t know that people that age could move like that,” my friend remarked with admiration while I blushed with embarrassment.
There was also their taste in movies, also inappropriate for their age. They still liked romantic movies! One of their favorites was “The Way We Were.” I love “The Way We Were.” But it seemed wrong that my parents harbored the same sensations as their kids.
So standing before me at the airport was a handsome middle-aged couple. My mother looked vibrant: porcelain skin, sparkling eyes, shiny black curly hair (she always had it permed) and light-pink lipstick. She was in her business clothes, a stylish cream-colored silk blouse with a pearl brooch pinned to the collar, dark midcalf skirt and black pumps. My father was in his air force uniform, looking fit and athletic.
They both had big grins and big open arms as I walked toward them.
Where were those wrinkles, droopy eyes and frail stature I had seen all those years, when I thought of them while being away (a time before FaceTime, Skype and the like)? Reflecting my thoughts, my greeting words were, “Mom, did you have a face-lift?” (I would have asked the same of my father had I not noticed a few crow’s feet around his eyes.)
My mother laughed in delight. “Do I look that young? It must be the new skin cream I just tried.”
I wasn’t convinced, “No, it can’t be that.”
I stood still, deep in thought.
My parents became concerned, “Are you on something, dear? Relaxant, tranquilizer for flight fright?” My father tried to diagnose my odd behavior.
I didn’t reply. Instead, I observed the people around me. There were people walking with their children my age; people who swiftly walked past me, maneuvering large luggage through the crowd, talking animatedly and laughing their lungs out.
If their children were my age, they would have to be around my parents’ age. I paused a moment for my common sense to settle in before, again, turning to gaze at the energetic, full-of-life people standing before me. My composure resumed.
“Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad,” I said, acknowledging them as I would people I was meeting for the first time.
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