I’m going to take a brief sidebar from Dad’s stories to share with you one of my favorite stories told by my mom. I love this story because it was told to me with such joy and affection amongst absolute turmoil and madness. It so clearly exhibits the many aspects of my mother’s character – her guts, love, strength & devotion, and humor (I adore the way that her eyes crinkle up when she laughs). She continues to astound me even now as an adult.
Mom was very pregnant, hauling me around in her swollen belly. One day, Dad had just come home exhausted from a hard day’s work. Mom had a serious craving for balut (fertilized duck egg), but Dad was in no mood to run out to the market.
The “market” is not your local supermarket where you have just about everything you need to conjure up meals in one convenient air-conditioned (or heated depending on the season) building and a parking lot with your car readily available to transport you and your groceries home. It is more likened to a farmer’s market where locals visit daily to buy only items that are expected to be consumed in that same day. You see, while the food is fresh (fish are literally jumping from basins of water), refrigeration is lacking – evidenced by the blocks of ice underneath cuts of meat. The market is open early in the morning, there is an afternoon break where they all close for a couple of hours, and then it reopens in the afternoon. Some remain open into the evening. It really depends on the proprietor. Sorry, I digress.
Dad handed Mom the money and said “If you want balut (bah-loot), you’re going to have to walk to the market yourself and get it. I’ve been going non-stop all day and just need to sit awhile.” Keep in mind that the days of a worker in Vietnam isn’t an 8 hour day where you have coffee breaks and lunch breaks. You start early in the morning, scarf down a meager (probably rice) lunch when you can (that is, if you have one) and go until the day’s work is done.
So, Dad was exhausted and Mom was happy to head off to the market to get her balut. The market is not far and she picks up enough to satisfy the pregnant woman’s craving gnawing at her belly and starts her walk home. That is when the carpet bombing begins. Dad hears it off in the distance and sprints to the market, desperately searching for Mom. He finds her, sweeps her off her feet, and runs the whole way home.
At this point in the tale, Mom laughs with merriment and says “It’s a good thing I got the eggs before they started bombing. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had any to eat!” Son of a motherless goat! What chutzpah!
The fact that my Mom smiles and laughs when she tells this story speaks volumes about the woman who raised me. My parents and older sisters went through a hell which I was far too young to remember (we left when I was an infant) but never gave up and never gave in to despair. Mom and Dad have achieved the American dream, but only through an incredible amount of struggle and sacrifice. Still, they don’t look back in anger and don’t feel the world owes them something. They have been able to find happiness in a war zone in the form of a duck egg.