Mom and I are at the subway station. I swipe the Metro Card, thinking Mom will go through the turnstile. Instead she stands there, wearing my puffy H&M jacket that makes me look like a deformed Spice Girl but she looks like she’s drowning in a pink sleeping bag.
“Uhm, Mom, when the green GO light comes on and dings, you go,” I explain and point at the turnstile. “Okay,” she says. I re-swipe and she still stands there. “What are you doing?” I ask. Didn’t I just explain this to her? “Oh,” she replies. From yesterday’s post we established that she is barely large enough for theme park rides, so she is not too fat to fit through the turnstile. Another reason why Mom will never appreciate the ride I took down Cabbage Diet Drive, Atkins Avenue and Weight Watchers Way. “Mom, listen for the ding,” I suggest and swipe. Again Mom does not move.
My parents have the innate ability to stretch dollars into directions I never knew money could bend. After the Partition of India and Pakistan my parents survived grain rations, water shortages, and dinnerless nights. They regularly remind my brother and me that they barely had two shirts. So you can forget about the comfort of air conditioning for those sweltering monsoon months. On more than one occasion I have been told about my maternal grandmother’s daily trek to the Old Delhi Railway Station to collect coal from passing trains so she could cook food, if she had enough, to feed her four kids. I often reflect that the American government should hire my parents; we’d be out of debt in no time. So the fact that I have wasted $8 dollars swiping in vain is so irritating I could spit.
“Did you NOT hear the ding?” I demand. A sharpness forms around the edges of my patience. “Do you know how much money I am wasting? We could have had two lattes from Starbucks while you just stood there.” The wounded look in Mom’s eyes forces me look away. Damn me! Mom’s hearing is tolerable under normal circumstances, but becomes challenged in the loud subway station.
“I have an idea,” I suggest. I step behind Mom, swipe the card, YET again, and shove her, yes, shove her through the turnstile. A passing woman glares at me. I shrug. I know. I must look like a bully manhandling a teeny Indian woman in an over-sized puffer. We have yet to locate a coat that fits her and we frequent the Macy’s kids’ section all the time. But I feel Mom is too old to wear a purple Barney jacket.
We step onto the double-long escalator and begin the 200-foot descent to the subway platform. Mom turns to me and says, “Let’s do that every time. I stand and you push me.”