In addition to visiting the Ganesh Temple in Flushing and eating at an unimpressive Indian restaurant in Jackson Heights, Mom wants to shop at the world’s largest Macy’s. I have not been there since my Meet Me At Macy’s Date (Post 43). But last night we went to a Kiran Desai book reading and I told Mom someday I want to be published and accomplished like Kiran. Mom said, “If you put your mind to something it will happen.” So I will endure the nightmare of Herald Square for her.
In three hours we load up on purses, bathrobes, pajamas and shoes. We’re on the final stretch, somewhere between men’s casual clothes and the door, when I experience unexplainable terror. One minute I’m talking to Mom and the next, she’s poof, gone! Repeatedly I call out for her and presume this is what parents feel when they momentarily lose their child, giving me insight into what I did to Mom. One day she needed thread and we went to Woolworth’s. I was about five, got bored and took a nap under a rack of tee-shirts. Eventually Mom found me but I received a major shouting. Now I realize it was out of fear not anger.
Thank goodness she appears after a few seconds. Though I feel relief, I do what she did, and yell. “What are you doing? You don’t carry a cell phone and get confused with directions. You need to follow me or you’ll get lost. Then how will you get back to the apartment?” My “NYC IS NOT SAFE” lecture loses some of its effect because we’re standing next to a display of Ralph Lauren sweatshirts and three male employees in black suits, who are spritzing cologne, stop and stare at us.
Mom apologizes over and over. I know I must seem like a terrible person for yelling at her. But she only drives within a three-mile radius of our house and never on the freeways. Minneapolis is a kind city where people stop and help change tires. Based on the bums I see in every neighborhood, New York has broken many a man and woman.
Then I threaten to get one of those leashes I see parents affixing to their kids in malls. This is when Mom yells at me in Hindi, realigning our power structure. In silence we walk back to the subway and board the A train. After we’re seated I offer a peace offering, “If you get lost again, I’m getting a kiddie leash.” She tries not to laugh and sternly says, “It won’t happen again.”
We’ll see. I have been her daughter long enough to expect the unexpected.