Oh, Go Ahead and Cry For Me Argentina!
I am trying to recall the fateful infraction that made my mom go from being awesome to embarrassing when I was a kid. I can’t quite pinpoint the exact offense but I think I was around the age of 12 or 13. Sadly, I think the image change is all part of the natural process of separation and signifies the beginning of our break- away to independence. As a parent now, I’ve been careful to keep the public displays of affection toward my children to a minimum. It’s a conscious effort to prolong the process and hang on to the image of “awesome” for as long as I can. Well, it was anyway. It’s just another pipe dream now. The cruel truth is, nature stops for no one.
Perhaps, the natural process of aging and the separation process, go hand in hand. In the last year or so I’ve started to hear myself saying things like, “Excuse me, can you repeat that please?” or “Pardon me? I missed the beginning of that.” It’s bad enough when you are speaking in your native tongue to not hear everything but now imagine being in a foreign country, say Mexico for example, where I’ve been for the last 10 days and where they speak Spanish and I don’t. My kids do however and I’ve relied on them often to translate for me. Although, there is a certain level of comfortability that comes with visiting the same city for eight years in a row. You pick up words and phrases after a while and feel confident using them. Let’s face it, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand simple things like “hola” or “gracias”. Heck, everyone knows that means “hello” and “thank-you” in Spanish. So, when the nice gentleman in the elevator, or the waiter, house keeper, hotel clerk, driver or merchant would kindly wish me a “good afternoon” in Spanish over the past week or so, I simply smiled, repeated back what I heard and went along my merry way, at first anyway.
After a few days however and many, many “good afternoon” exchanges, I began to notice bewildered looks, odd expressions, a smirk here and there and the most common; a blank look accompanied by a hollow smile, in return of these greetings. What?? Was there something stuck in my teeth? I didn’t get it. Not until my 12-year old son was with me one afternoon that is. As per usual, with a huge smile and an air of confidence, I kindly reciprocated a store merchant’s “good afternoon” with a very cheery, “Buenos Aires!” Again, the perplexed look and hollow smile was received in return. It wasn’t until we were out of ear shot and the store that my son turned to me with a look of pure mortification on his face and said, “Mom, what did you say to that guy?” “Buenos Aires. Why?” I replied. “Why did you say Beunos Aires?” he asked. After explaining I was just trying to be nice and insisting I knew what I was saying, after all I had been “Buenos Aires-ing” people all week now, he looked up at me with that ‘I am so embarrassed by you’ look in his eyes and said, “Oh, my God mom, come on! Buenos Aires is a city! That’s like someone saying good afternoon to you and you replying, ‘New York‘! They are saying Buenas Tardes not Buenos Aires!” (Apparently, the “t” in tardes is silent. Who knew? Obviously, not me.)
Good Lord, now it all made sense though! Okay, so people were wishing me a good afternoon and I was cheerfully replying with the name of a city in Argentina. Nice move mom. Now my 12-year old son (who has been showing signs of approaching that point of separation over the last several months as it is) won’t even go to the hotel lobby with me. Yes, it seems I’ve lost my “coolness”, at least for the next 5 or 6 years where he’s concerned anyway. Nature set its course and me and my slight loss of hearing were in it’s path. Inevitable.
So by all means, go ahead and cry for me Argentina and all the other parents who are in the same or soon to be same boat! But before you do, please tell me your “I used to be awesome until..” story. You know what they say, misery loves company and I know I can’t be alone on this one.