Here I am, Back Home Again

My parents are opposites in the affection department. When far away, my father could barely stand to talk to me. I would phone and identify myself accurately but rather imprecisely (it’s your child) and my father would reply, “Talk to your mother.”

It was with no small trepidation that I greeted my parents. Was Ba mad at me? Would he be silent and severe? No. Not at all. Rather, he was quite affectionate, grasping me warmly by the shoulders, patting my Partner on the back, asking pertinent questions about our trip and being amused by our answers.

My mother, on the other hand, though also physically affectionate, started in immediately with a catalogue of my faults, which contrary to my own misguided hopes, have been getting longer as I age instead of shorter. First up, I wasn’t married. It seems a seriously, obviously committed long-term relationship is not good enough. She did try to answer some of my concerns about the whole marriage shebang (you can have a small wedding, you know, a non Vietnamese wedding, we won’t mind) but we’d had this conversation last time I was physically in her presence. Also, I was too dark, too skinny and much too childless. I had come to believe that, all those times on the telephone when she said she didn’t mind what I was up to as long as I was happy, she’d meant it. More fool me.

I know that the best I can expect is that I change; my attitude can change. Instead of that angry, headstrong, confrontational teenager, I could be a more mature 30-something. I could be, but I’m not. I remain a teenager (actually younger, perhaps five) in my interactions with my parents, and they, too, remain as they always have been: my father severe but deeply loving; my mother loving in her irrational contradictory unfathomable irritating way.

*****

So, I’m no longer cycle-touring.

I have been in Australia for a few weeks and am re-settling in Melbourne. I’m still on borrowed internets, rather than my own. I have some stories to tell you and they will flow, as they always have, in my sporadic way.

This post’s title mimics lyrics by Will Sheff of Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy. The song kept playing inside my head in Brisbane.

The apposite lyrics are as follows:-
Here I am back home again
I’m here to rest.
All they ask is where I’ve been
knowing I’ve been west.

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11 Comments

  1. Ah! If you’re back and blogging, you must truly have returned. Great to have you back. I think we always live in the shadow of our relations with our parents. My dad’s been gone for more than 8 yrs now, and your description of how your father is made me teary on the train home. I’ve missed your blog. x

    Reply

    1. Now, wasn’t it you who said, “Once a blogger, always a blogger”? That definitely applies to me 🙂
      We do – I certainly do – but I’d like to grow up inside that shadow…

      Reply

  2. Your parents sound a lot like my parents and I wonder if there is any other kind of Vietnamese parent than the severe and/or irrationally contradictory. But hey, physical affection from a Vietnamese father of the old school is practically unknown as far as I know so perhaps your parents are changing too. Great to see you blogging here again and welcome home!

    Reply

    1. Honglien –

      Not sure why, but WordPress decided that your first comment was spam. I’ve undone that and it appears here, despite your later comment replicating your first. Hopefully, with 3 approved comments (and many in the past!), WordPress will realise I welcome your comments!

      Glad to be home and in Melbourne and, oh yes! please do visit one day!

      I don’t think what I experience with my parents is anything unusual (as borne out by your and WC’s comments), I just wish I was better at dealing with it!

      Reply

  3. (How is it that my PS made it to the comments but my comment did not? As I was saying…) Are there any other kind of Vietnamese parents other than the severe and/or irrationally contradictory? At least there is now physical contact and that is something greatly lacking with old school Vietnamese fathers in my experience. Perhaps your parents are changing as well. Glad to see you back and blogging. Welcome home!

    Reply

  4. Welcome back! I missed being able to interact with you in comments. Although I did enjoy the more updated blog postings during your journey.

    Your interaction with your mom was much too similar to mine. And just as recent as well. So I guess it helps to realize that’s just how Vietnamese mothers are?

    Reply

    1. There was more to write about during the journey 🙂
      Yes, it is just how Viet mamas and maybe most mamas are. I know this and I accept it but I wish I was different, better at dealing with it, better at assuaging her concerns rather than bellowing like a bull and making her cry. I mean, I have enough guilt as it is!

      Reply

  5. Oh, I’m so glad you’re back! I would peek at your and N’s travelogue now and again, but I missed your reflections like this one. My dad is a lot like yours: rather terse on the phone. But he’s the type who warms up over a meal and could sit for hours afterwards talking and reminiscing. I’m sorry your conversations with your mom always include her disappointed hopes in you.

    Reply

  6. I’m obviously stalking you. I started with how to cook Hu Tieu from Wandering Chopsticks blog, wandered around stalking her and then followed her link to here. I’ve enjoyed your writing a lot, even though I don’t do any sewing. I was happy as clam to be a silent stalker until this post. So just wanted to say yep your mother’s words are exactly like mine including dark skin etc… I hope your mother is less worried now that the baby is coming. 🙂

    Reply

    1. Hi Thanh!
      I love when people comment on old posts … Yes, my mother & father are a wee bit happier with me now I’m up the duff & in the family way. I think they’ve even forgotten I’m still unmarried. 🙂

      Reply

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