August 30, 2012

So today, I need you to help me write this blog post. I’ll do my part by supplying an iconic image from my childhood. One look and I’ll bet you’ll instantly understand a lot about my personal issues. My hope is that you can explain what happened to me.

I can still remember the day this memorable image became tattooed on my brain. We were still living in Lyndhurst, N.J. and hadn’t moved yet to New York City. We didn’t relocate to Chinatown until I was nine, which means that I was probably seven or eight on this day.

Well, there we were — Mom, me and my younger sister, sitting around the formica-topped dining table. In front of us was a rectangular cookie tin. On its lid was the image of a very pretty white lady in a strapless blue evening gown. Her long white gloves were so elegant! And she was holding red roses, my mother’s favorite flower!

We’d recently finished the butter cookies that came in the box. Now, my mother was wiping out the last of the crumbs. But for some reason, she was staring at the picture of the beautiful lady and frowning.

Next thing I knew, Mom was holding a pair of sharp scissors and a scrap of blue contact paper. Have you ever used contact paper?  It’s plasticized sheeting with self-adhesive backing, often used for lining shelves. That’s what Mom used it for — until that particular day…

She cut that contact paper into the shape of a little jacket. Then she peeled off the backing and covered the white lady’s bare shoulders and cleavage. After that, my mother smiled, satisfied.

During her lifetime, my mom used the box to store sewing buttons. When I was in my I-hate-my-mother 30s, I snuck it out of my mother’s apartment and took the box with me to one of my therapy sessions so that my shrink could see first-hand how I was raised; by the end of my 50 minutes, both of us were laughing out loud.

After Mom went into the nursing home and we cleaned out her apartment, the box and the buttons went into one of my closets. Ever since Mom’s death, I’ll occasionally take out the cookie tin. Holding it’s solid shape is somehow comforting now. I can even smile too. Although, I’m quite sure my mother and I are smiling for different reasons.

Your thoughts?   :)

Original copyrighted work by Betty Ming Liu