I’m travelling in Paris with my mom this week for her 80th birthday. And, for her birthday, it’s not just accompanying her on her dream to see Paris and making sure she doesn’t trip on the brick sidewalk and break a hip, it’s about accepting her fully and joyfully with her full regalia of predilections and vibrant personality.
And that includes not being embarrassed when she talks to strangers. Whoever they are. Wherever they are. “Mom…they’re calling our table,” as she lingers oogling over the baby in the lobby. “Mom…we’re leaving…” as she lags behind, discovering at the last minute she and the security guard both have Russian heritage.
I had a hearkening with myself just the day before when I promised to use all of my intercultural skills of listening fully, expressing curiosity, embracing “does the difference make a difference,” to really get to know and engage fully in this special time together.
All was going well on our next day outing to the Musee d’Orsay, until we sat at the restaurant on the top floor. She looked at the plate of the young man sitting next to us. He had eaten all of his beef and noodles, but had left a carefully segregated pile of peas gathered neatly on one quarter of his plate.
She looked at the plate. Pointed to the peas, not knowing if he spoke English. “Eat Your Peas!” she said.
I cringed and one of those awkward apologetic smiles spread across my face, but I refrained from intervening, waiting for the worst.
And how did our neighbor react?
Did he say, “is that your mother? How embarrassing!”
Did he say, “hey, crazy lady, leave me alone?
Did he stand up and leave, placing a curse on us for the rest of the trip?
No…he simply ate his peas. Every single one of them!
And then it was me who couldn’t resist—“Did you just eat your peas because my mom told you to?”
And that’s how we befriended the young couple from Singapore who thought we were “brilliant.” And that picture above of my mom and the young man to remember this moment? His girlfriend took the same photo.
Who doesn’t want to remember the funny story of the universal mom who got you to eat your peas. After all, you kind of know you’re supposed to.
“Give peas a chance.”