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Friday, April 6, 2012

Of Beauty and Gratitude

The weekend looms, my friend, and Friday morning here in My Fair Town is tinted with the pinks and greens of spring.

It wasn't much of a winter, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy our luck at witnessing another spring.

But the weekend!  What does the weekend hold?  If only there was some way of knowing, some way of predicting what we could expect...

But there is!  For as it is known in these parts -- particularly the parts between my ears -- my iPod, set to "shuffle" and played during my Friday-morning commute, knows all, tells some.

Shh.  Let's listen.

How Deep is Your Love by The Bee Gees
Dance for Me by Southern Culture on the Skids
Rebel Rebel by David Bowie
A Hazy Shade of Winter by Simon & Garfunkel
Born to Wander by Rare Earth
Intergalactic by Beastie Boys
Tiger by Maximum Balloon

All of life is open to interpretation, of course, but the urge to hit the road will be marked.  Do it.

I, for one, will be seeing family this weekend.

Have I told you that my sister is beautiful?

You can imagine how this has gotten on my nerves over the years.

Not that I’m not attractive as well, but Karen has never had an awkward phase, has never been overweight, required glasses, or split her pants in public.

Naturally, I’m against this.

I mean, her beauty doesn’t make me love her less, but it does make me wish she’d get a pimple or two, if only for the weekend.

We’ve not let this unfortunate case of being pigeon-holed by our parents as The Pretty One (her) and The Smart One (me) get in the way of our relationship, however. I’ve had some very good times with my sister, including drunken arm wrestling and anonymously mailing her coupons for gas-reduction products addressed to Bloated and Musical Occupants.

I was thinking about her the other day, thinking about beauty and what it means, and I remembered a little Vietnamese restaurant that opened in our town when Karen and I were teenagers.

Minnesota, in the late 70s/early 80s, welcomed to its chilly bosom a large number of immigrants from Viet Nam, primarily Hmong. One minute there were no Hmong, and the next there were plenty.

Who are Hmongs? Oh, just a mountain-dwelling people who were the United States’ allies in the Viet Nam War.

If you’ve seen the movie Gran Torino, those are Hmongs, there with Clint Eastwood.

And yes, the Lutherans sponsored them.

The new Asian place was pretty decent, especially considering that Asian restaurants in most parts of Minnesota in the early 80s tended to be run by people whose last name was Larson, included entrees heavily laden with celery, and came with horrible packets of dark-brown liquid purported to be soy sauce.

And so it was that we were in this restaurant one afternoon, no doubt picking up and dropping our food with the chopsticks we were determined to master, when a woman about four foot nothing approached our table.

“You,” she says, looking at Karen, “You muddah mus’ be beh-yee boodeefo!”

Karen looks at me with “What?!” in her eyes.

“I’m sorry?” Karen says to the woman.

“You muddah mus’ be beh-yee boodeefo!”

Karen smiles. “Thank you.”

And with no further conversation, the woman turns around and goes back into the kitchen.

Karen leans over the table and whispers, “What did she say?”

“She said your mother must be very beautiful.”

And then we sat there, quietly, both of us reflecting on this most interesting of compliments. She saw, not the physical beauty in Karen, but the beauty that must have come before her.

And then we laughed. Our physical attributes were passed to us. Sure, we choose to wash our hair and wear lipstick, but the rest is purely luck.

We are who we are. Sometimes it is chosen for us, sometimes it is as a result of our own efforts, and sometimes we have a leg-up by way of parentage.

Either way, I’ll bet your mother was very beautiful.


Shelly said...

This is such a lovely piece, Pearl, full of light, life, and warm wisdom. You are beautiful yourself, you know~

Pearl said...

:-) Shelly. You are also beh-yee boodeefo.

Anonymous said...

Yes she was. And according to your sound track I should be taking an ntergalactic trip to the depths of my love this weekend. Spacey man!!

Pearl said...

Delores, what can I say? The iPod don't lie!

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

I, too, am against people who don't split their pants in public...

I KNOW you muddah was beh-yee boodeefo Pearlie! I mean, just look at ya!

Pearl said...

Dawn, I know, right? Would it be too much to ask her to spill a little something down the front of her shirt sometime?! :-) And thank you. I suspect your mother is a bit of a looker herself!

Camille said...

Thank you Pearl - nice for me to remember that my mom was a good lookin' broad. And coming from a pack of four girls, I turned out to be the "clever" one. *le'sigh* :-)

And you betcha - any weekend that starts with a little 'Southern Culture on the Skids' and a road trip is bound to be a good one. Happy Easter!

Silliyak said...

My mom was beautiful, but I look like my dad. Him, well he had good intentions. Mom must have seen SOMETHING.

Pearl said...

Camille, your reaction to the post makes me happy. :-) Have a great weekend.

Silliyak, I've read your stuff, and I'm guessing your dad was a real charmer. :-) It comes through!

esbboston said...

I finished growing up in a town chock fuLL of immigrants (Germans from Russia a hundred years ago) who were difficult to understand, and I was told the eXact same message but I interpretted it as "Your brother is messed up very much", but this is confusing as I have two brothers, and obviously overrated sisters.

Pat said...

Reminds me of my sister and I - she is 84 and sent me a card recently showing two old crones - like us - saying:
'Was I the clever one and you the pretty one or was it the other way round?'
Often the pretty one's looks fade and the clever one grows into her face.

Sioux said...

How about a parenting story or an "independent woman" story or a "good advice" story for Chicken Soup for the Soul? How about a "girls night out" or a story about a dog or cat for Not Your Mother's Books? How about a story about family for Linda O'Connell's Not Your Mother's Book (www.publishingsyndicate.com)? Or a book about being a mom or being a mom-to-be for Dianna Graveman's Your Mother's Book? I know you have some tales to tell, Pearl.

Take solace in this: outer beauty sags and wrinkles and gets peppered with age spots. Inner beauty just gets better!

Steve Bailey said...

I say you hide her makeup for the weekend!!

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

As I sit at Mother's bedside counting her laboured breaths between periods of apnea, I think back to all she has passed on to my sister and I over the years, genetically and thru life's ups and downs. There are many kinds of "beautiful". I sure do love my sister, even though she is slimmer, richer and more popular than i am. Have a happy Easter.

Ugich Konitari said...

Loved this piece Pearl, especially the "beh-yee boodeefo!” part; though I really have no clue about the songs on the Ipod.

I've been once told that I laugh like my daughter . I treasured that. Never knew we inherited stuff from the children, in this case adopted and commented on because they had a different complexion color. I thought that was, as you say, beh-yee boodeefo....

R. Jacob said...

I think my favorite midwestern (P) and (D) bloggers are both beautiful, intelligent, charming and caring. And I am glad I know you both!

ThreeOldKeys said...

Most days, I'd rather be the one to interpret the compliment to the beautiful one.

And I bet your mother was funny too.

ThreeOldKeys said...

Most days, I'd rather be the one to interpret the compliment to the beautiful one.

And I bet your mother was funny too.

ThreeOldKeys said...

I have a couple pieces of astonishing tiny-stitched Hmong embroidery.

If you'd like to be amazed, google some images for Hmong needlework.

WrathofDawn said...

My mother was as cute as a button!

I look like my father.

Kidding. He was a cutie patootie, too.

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. Me and Samantha Brick. Such a burden is our beauty. Oh yeah.

Did I mention my bad vision?

SherilinR said...

i will be looking for my intergalactic tiger as i head into the weekend.
my sister is one of those blessedly lovely, tall, tan, thin types, nothing like myself. i'm so glad she's 11 years younger than me so that i didn't have to hate her for the attention she would have no doubt stolen from me.
thankfully, she's also prone toward mishaps, much like myself. it makes her even more lovable.

fishducky said...

I have no sisters, so I guess I could consider myself both the pretty one AND the smart one.

However, I'm reminded of the book, YHE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, where there's a character who's the world's shortest giant, the world's tallest midget, the world's thinnest fat man & the world's fattest thin man--yep. all ONE guy!

Jadzia@Toddlerisms said...

What an incredibly beautiful story. It makes me think of what parts of myself might have come from my complicated, beautiful mother.

JohnD said...

My mother was a plain 'home-Mum' with a pleasant nature - never had a nasty word to say about anybody and was very repected by others outside the family. While my younger brother was always the 'family favourite' I knew that my mum had a special spot for myself (she was always so forgiving towards me whenever I was 'in trouble' (again!, as my sisters would add - sighhhh!)

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl! My family are all loopy, and I suspect yours may have had their moments. So we are in grand company! Indigo x

NotesFromAbroad said...

Aww, Pearl girl, you made me cry ~
Well, looking at Karen, your mother was beautiful and looking at you, your family must have been gifted ..

Linda O'Connell said...

You are a beauti-foo person and smart too! Happy Easter

Jayne Martin said...

I love the way you built the whole story up to that moment. It was really beh-yee boodeefo!

jenny_o said...

So happy to see The Bee Gees in your iPod lineup! I actually know their music! Ha ha

I have never been accused of being pretty, but as I age, I feel that might be a blessing ... now, if my formerly smart brain cells would quit dying, I'd be happy :)

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

Bravo. I love how you took us to so many silly places and tied it together with a sweet message. I can relate too. I was the smart sister, and my sis was the perfectly pretty one. That's still the case.

Have a great weekend, beautiful one.


Scarlet Blue said...

Happy Easter, Pearl!

There has been much talk regarding beautiful women in the UK in the past week, and your post is a refreshing take on how women perceive and respond to each other.

Tempo said...

...and then there were those of us from (not ugly) rather ordinary parents. While young, fresh and fit we pass for beautiful, in our way.. but as time goes by, as the Australian sun burns any semblance of beauty from our pores, as our noses and ears continue to grow long after sensible body parts have stopped growing... we are no longer considered beautiful.
If you want me I'll be over there crying in the corner..

River said...

Finally! Something on your i-pod that I know and remember. The Bee Gees and David Bowie.

I think you're just as beautiful as Karen, even though I've never seen her....

My mum was beautiful too and I look like her, but with my dad's chin and all my kids have the resemblance too.
My sister looks like our grandfather....

Peaceful Warrior said...

Well done for being such a good sport, and not making your sisters life hell as you hated her for her supposed good looks.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as you know. To a blind person everyone is beautiful.

Inner beauty is far more valuable and yet we seem to focus on outer beauty as if it is worth something more of our adoration.
Probably worse as men drool over it so much more than women.
We all got what we got and in this way cannot change much, except for make-up or surgery..
I did change my name, as it suited who I am rather than who I was.
That gets its fair share of odd comments..lol

Loved your post.

Loads of love.


Anonymous said...

My sister is beautiful, and I do resent her for this. I mean, she complains about how thin she is all the time. When we go out together, all eyes are on her. Eh, I still love her.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Pearl, this is a very insightful look into sibling rivalry as well as a great read. There is certainly nothing wrong with your genes. ":))

Jenny Woolf said...

So true! Life's like that all the way through. It's so interesting the woman thought of it that way.