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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You Muddah Mus' Be Be-Yee Boodefo!


For my sister, who is suffering from a bad back...

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 amount 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.

44 comments:

NotesFromAbroad said...

Awww .. this is so sweet . I know your mother was beautiful, without even seeing you.
ps
You have Chinese restaurants run by the Larsons, we have Chinese restaurants run by the Lopez .. sigh~

Sausage said...

Great post...me maw is a beauty.
We do have a Mexican restaurant run by an American family and an American diner run by Koreans!!!
but this is Florida aka where socks are banned, helmet laws apply to bicycles but not motorcycles...I know it's random but I am cold.
cheers, Sausage.

Chantel said...

Loved this Pearl, what a marvelous thing to ponder...

Pat said...

I remember from way back that Karen is a beauty.
We had the smart one and the pretty one - my sister and I.
These days neither of us can remember who was which.

TexWisGirl said...

what a sweet perspective.

my mother had the most beautiful and frequent smile. i am so happy to have inherited it.

Suldog said...

Great post, and a wonderful philosophy at the end, but don't sell yourself short. Unless you look totally different in person than you do in your photos, you're not a bad looker yourself.

Dr Zibbs said...

Well you're pretty too. But please post a picture of you sister. Haha.

Jenn Jilks said...

This is delightful!
I always wanted a sister!

GDad said...

I was about three years old, and I was in the passenger seat of my mom's yellow Volkswagen Beetle. Mom had named the Beetle "Hermione," which is how I knew how to pronounce the name when I first read the Harry Potter books.

A crooner came on the radio singing, "Hey, if you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world..."

I looked to my left, and I said, "Mommy, that man is talking about you!"

joeh said...

Loved this! My Mom was beautiful...it does not always get passed on.

And I agree with Suldog, if you are the smart one, your sister must be a total knockout!

But then I am a cranky/dirty old man.

Shelly said...

Those last three paragraphs are amazingly profound.

And your fadduh had a hand in it, too~

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

What a complement! Very sweet.

Eva Gallant said...

Aww....that is so true!

esbboston said...

Influx: Huge Hmong Among Us

I just came from the new Vietnamese restaurant on Western Street and they have a huge variety of things there to try. I just stopped to get a menu to bring to the wife. I am hoping that my wife wants to go there, they have chicken based soup as weLL, which is different than the other two restaurants here in AmariLLo. I wiLL email you later ...

Geo. said...

What a charming compliment! I hope the little Hmong woman says that to her own children too.

Ian Lidster said...

Well, dear, with my bias towards you I happen to think you are gorgeous, so there. I think I have a crush on you. OK, I said it. Now, you also wrote something I can so relate to. My dear alcoholic mother once slurred about my brother and me that 'he' (my brother) was the good looking one and I was the 'smart' one. And in one fell swoope she insulted us both. I can relate. But, like you and your sister, brother and I are very good friends.

L-Kat said...

This is so touching....a good message and a great story. Thanks for sharing!

Glen said...

I just wish my dad had hair...

Craver Vii said...

What a nice way to say it. In her way, she spread the compliment to Karen and your mother, but you as well. "The smart one" isn't a bad way to go either.

Most of my family is not only bilingual, but also bicultural, as well as a shade or two darker than me. My siblings introduce me to their friends as "the white sheep of the family."

George Turnbull said...

My parents got their beauty from me!


It's complicated and has to do with a "gadget" that I borrowed from a friend of mine, Herbert George Wells (who died on the 13 August 1946), at the end of next week.

Jacquelineand.... said...

Sorry Pearl; you are beautiful as well. What's more, you've earned that beauty.

Sweet story and I love what you've taken from it.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Hope Karen's back feels better, as I may need her to kick thug arse at a Rush concert!
(Love that Karen post, and this one, too) :)

Joanne Noragon said...

Karen's back should be totally cured at the end of the post. Very nice.

Jocelyn said...

You've packaged huge wisdom perfectly here. I get annoyed with how completely we all equate looks with character and want to give some sort of credit to the good looking for what they've achieved. All of that thinking adds up to a big HUH?

jenny_o said...

You both have so much pretty and so much smart, it is just splitting hairs to call one pretty and one smart. And what about the "nice"? You gotz that too :)

Roshni AaMom said...

love it!!! Another wonderful, insightful post!

Al Penwasser said...

And you speak Vietnamese. So you have that going for you.

Al Penwasser said...

Which is nice.

Stephen Hayes said...

Lovely story. We beautiful people do carry a heavy burden, though.

Ms Sparrow said...

There is a "Chinese" restaurant in my area like that. They feature chow mein and chop suey that consists mainly of boiled celery in a clear starchy sauce over chow mein noodles.
It's awful but they give you lots of it so you have leftovers to take home and regret.

HermanTurnip said...

"Who are Hmongs?"

Those are the guys in that Dirty Harry movie where Eastwood dies at the end?

Rose L said...

When I was young, I was known as the skinny or boney girl and my sister was the chubby and smart girl. I hated being skinny as was teased a lot---You must have to run around in the shower to get wet. If you turn sideways and stick out your tongue you look like a zipper. You look like a board with 2 BB's (my breasts) stuck to it.
I was pretty shy and tried so hard to gain weight.
My sister, I thought, was pretty. She had breasts (something I did not develop until 23), was outgoing, and was smart.
All grown up and married, she confessed to me that she was jealous because I "was so pretty." I confessed to her that I was jealous because I thought she was pretty.
Neither felt lovely when young. We both looked at some photo's of ourselves and each said, "Gee, I wasn't so bad looking after all."

Rose L said...

I must post a P.S.
Trying to gain weight back in the early 70's I took some stuff--horse-sized chewable pills--called Weight On. They were gross. They did nto help me gain weight then, but I swear they were time-released and took effect when I hit my late 40's!!!!

WrathofDawn said...

She was pretty ding-danged cute, that's for sure, by gar.

WrathofDawn said...

PS - I look like my father.

WrathofDawn said...

PPS - He was pretty darned cute, too.

The Elephant's Child said...

Why thank you. Both of your parents were most intelligent (and funny with it).

Anupama K. Mazumder said...

Such a lovely post. Yes, we need to realize that its ultimately us - and make most of what we have!

www.anucreations.blogspot.in

Lynn said...

She was beautiful.

★ Braja Sorensen said...

I wanna sit in your creative writing class. I don't have any interest in writing it. I just wanna hear you talk :)

Diane said...

My Mom was beautiful! A trait she failed to pass on to her middle daughter. Sigh. I so needed this post today. Just saw the movie 'Brave' with my Husby. So missing my mother right now . . .

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Love your story -- so sweet and so true that physical beauty is in the genes but we build deeper beauty throughout our lives. It's so great that you and Karen have a good relationship despite those old distinctions-- the Pretty One, the Smart One. I have a pretty sister and a brilliant brother so I had to settle for "The Sensible One.."

Stephanie Pounds said...

Whenever someone tells me I look just like my mother I tell them "Thank You" because she has always been the prettiest woman I know.

Melissa said...

I never saw this until I had my own sons. Oddly enough as soon as I became a mother, I saw (literally) how uncannily like my own mother that I looked. She lived only 12 weeks after my son was born (she was 43 when she died of Lou Gherig's disease) but now I see her in the mirror every single time I look up. I see her in my son every time he smiles. I see her in my youngest little man every time he snarks me.

She was indeed beautiful. I haven't been able to tell her since the moment she last drew breath 9 years ago, but oh yes. She was beautiful. And she passed it down to us all.