I want to scream. I’m standing in the kitchen next to my mom who’s fixing me a plate. She’s taking forever, as usual. She picks up the rice and some grains fall from the spoon. She must replace those 5 grains of rice. So she dives in for 500 replacements. I tell her 3 times that the amount of food on my plate is enough, but still she keeps piling it on. This has been a lifelong experience. She thinks I’m starving myself always. I’ve gained ten pounds this year and she’s giddy with excitement that maybe I’ll live. Her child will not starve this year. The food on my plate is piling up and it’s starting to concern me, but she’s taking so long that food is all I can think about and I’m starting to feel like, yes, I can eat all of this food.
Now she’s swirling the sauce around in the pot. With her ladle she raises the sauce, she’s pouring it over the chicken, getting the thicker sauce to the top. Now she’s selecting the chicken. Nothing too boney, largest piece is for my dad. She’s looking for the one that’s just right. She tries to add a second piece, but I tell her no. She adds one anyway.
Now she’s placing the chicken beside the rice, pouring over it the golden orange sauce. Now for the plantain. Now she’s searching through the sauce for slices of onions and bell peppers. She lays them gently, slowly, over the plantain, adds a little more sauce.
And I want to scream. Then I remember:
- Telling my kids that home is right down the street and they can wait a little longer to eat the food we just bought. They should eat at a table or at least a couch. “You are not wild animals. You can wait.” I’ve said it so often that they’re used to it by now.
- Always being the last one to order at restaurants and the last one to finish eating because I eat so slowly. “Oh my goodness, you eat so slowly” is a sentence I’ve heard from childhood till now. I can’t speed up.
- Being stared at while chopping vegetables. My friends finding my slowness amusing and sometimes annoying. “I’m going as fast as I can to maintain quality,” I’ve explained. They ain’t buying it.
- I’ve always been a slow reader. In college I took a Studies in the Novel course and we were required to read an entire novel every week. When I heard this, I was aghast and wondered how it could be possible. Needless to say, I never once finished a novel in time.
- It takes me ages to finish one piece of writing. It’s getting to be a bit ridiculous.
I’m reminded of when I first read Memoirs of a Geisha. Though it was years ago, some aspects of that book have never left me. What stuck with me the most was the intentionally slow, precise, graceful and waiting nature of a geisha’s movements.
I think that when people speak of grace what they mean is slowness. A slowing down. Everything that I connect with grace, every image, has an element of slowness. The dress floats as if suspended on air. Her movements glide. Say the word glide aloud. Doesn’t it make you slow down to say it? The tea was poured slowly and deliberately. How else were her clients to admire the beauty of her wrist? The Samurai, also, didn’t they move slowly? Meticulously. Didn’t they practice mindfulness and make every day activities an art form?
Maybe I should have more patience with my mother. Maybe I should give in and study her techniques. After all, it does appear that she is my future self.