Growing up it always felt like my mom and I were worlds apart. In some ways, we literally were — she with her Bengali and Persian roots, and me with my American ones. And heaven forbid our roots tried to connect together — it would not
I remember my mom would come to every field trip, clothed head-to-toe in bright colors, with a thick foreign accent that would make a classmate ask, “What is your mom saying?”
I remember how she made friends with my fourth-grade teacher and the school crossing guard, inviting them to dinner and feeding them curried chicken and polow, a buttery rice.
I remember how she never let me wear shorts or sleepover at someone’s house. Instead they could come to our house, where loud Bollywood music played in the background and the smell of warm cinnamon and cardamom chai filled the entire apartment.
And what I remember the most was how I felt during all those moments, the cringe spreading through my blood, embarrassment at every corner of my body. l knew that night when I came home, I would throw a tantrum — tell my mom to be more like the other “American moms,” who were not so strict or so involved in every aspect of their daughters’ lives. I was a bratty, selfish kid and I knew where to target her so that it hurt.
When the opportunity to go away to college came, I jumped at it. My mom was supportive but she was also heartbroken that her daughter was moving away. I could see the sadness in her eyes when she asked me, “Will you visit us from time to time, and can we visit you?” It was at that moment that I truly felt connected to my mom, that even though I wanted this independence, a part of me would miss having her at arm’s length.
The last three years have been full of ups and downs, but I have always had one best friend there by my side — my mother. From the two-hour drives she took whenever I missed home-cooked meals to the 3 a.m. phone calls she would answer when I could not figure out how to use a washing machine my freshman year, she has proven her dedication to me.
My mom has been there with me through it all, and now that I have matured, I have a newfound respect for her. I think of all the fights I could have saved myself from having with her if I had realized this sooner, but in some ways I am thankful too that things were the way they were growing up. Maybe I would have never realized how much we love each other if I did not butt heads with her the way I did.
Going home on weekends is a luxury and something that I look forward to. I love watching Bollywood movies with her right after our daily dose of CNN. She makes me a huge cup of cinnamon and cardamom chai and we sip, talk and laugh. She listens to my dreams and does not judge me when I tell her I do not know if I want to go to law school or try and become a broadcast journalist.
I ask her about her childhood and the dreams that she had. I never knew that my mom was in medical school, that she gave up her career to raise a family.
My mom tells me how she was a nurse in the Red Cross during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, and how her mom yelled at her for wearing shorts too. She tells me about her past loves, her old modeling photos and the broadcast career that she thought of having once like me.
We speak about once taboo topics, like “Do you have a boyfriend?” and if marijuana is actually good for the body. We visit all the Instagram-worthy food and tourist places I find, we eat and have a good time. My mom is my photographer and she takes all my fire flicks for Instagram. If that is not real love, I am not sure what is.
In my 21 years of living, I have learned that friends come and go, but my mom will never leave. Sure, we still do not always see eye-to-eye on things, and sometimes my mom will lecture me for certain Instagram shots, but there is a respect between us, an understanding of each other’s feelings.
Most importantly, I have learned that our vast cultural roots can merge together, because my mom was trying all along. Maybe it does take college and to be in our 20s to realize how wonderful a mom truly can be.