Oh, baby, mother me

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Sunset Rubdown – Us Ones in Between (KEXP)

It’s Mother’s Day. The family is out at an expensive Chinese restaurant with a view overlooking the ocean. The fish could practically flop out of the water and into the tanks. The banner along the wall has an English translation underneath which reads: “A Good Place for your Daily Meals and Gathering!”

As each course comes, the two oldest sons, sitting nearest the parents, harry to serve the couple, often reaching over others and generally making a show of their devotion.

Between the arrival of courses, the older brother returns to his own plate, devouring any morsels on it with alacrity. He dismisses his bowl of rice with a wave and concentrates on seafood exclusively, shoveling mouthfuls in and swallowing dangerously quickly. His broad, dumb face concentrates only on the food in front of him, ignoring the conversation swirling around him. Eventually, he will run his father’s powerful and lucrative company into the ground, but for now he’s still blissfully learning the ropes as the Little Boss.

The middle brother spends most of the evening making puns about the flutist and the exhalation of air, gregariously heading up the conversation, his voice perpetually at a volume noticeably too loud for a roofed area. In a handful of months he’ll move back to America to earn a liberal arts degree and delve into a world up drama, art, music, and culture which his family and, frankly, most of his friends don’t really understand. He thinks of himself, despite his personable demeanor, as something of a misunderstood artist. He just hasn’t found his medium yet, or so he tells himself.

The mother wanders off to greet friends (she knows nearly everyone in the restaurant, including the owner) and pick new dishes out as they swim in tanks. She’s generous to a fault. The loudness of the conversation, surely traceable to the mother’s shout-talking, can’t drown out a softness, an unmistakable truly-cares-about-others quality which she has bequeathed her sons.

The youngest brother notes one of her returns and rejoins an easy, joking conversation in English. He’s well adjusted and relaxed. Once, on a long drive, his father was lecturing him on morals. Noting that his son was tuning him out, the father angrily inserted, “Listen, you can ignore me all you want when you’re 18. For now you have to listen to me.” The youngest son pointed out that he was, in fact, 18. “Well, ignore me then,” the father allowed, so the son did. A year later, during a disagreement over dinner at which there was beer, the father shouted, “First of all, you shouldn’t even be drinking yet, you’re not 18.” “I’m 19, dad.” “Don’t contradict me!”

Now, the youngest son estimates that, if asked, his dad will give his age as “16, nearly 17.” He holds no grudges, seems to almost enjoy the humor of the tale. None of the sons resent their father – he gave them everything they have and, besides, he’s their father.

The father is a ruthless business man; a ruthless man even, subject more to his own notions of honor and ritual than to any logical progression. He finishes the huge meal which will eventually cost him three-fourths of what he pays for rent and leans back, surveying his full family. He is fat and happy.

[Buy yer ma an e-card. Maybe don’t get her Shut Up I Am Dreaming if she’s not into the Rock Music, but grab a copy or two for yourself. Keep in mind, however, that Spencer Krug’s mom likes the Rock Music and is therefore probably cooler than your mom.]

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