Mama, like practically all Chinese adults I know, never, ever walked barefoot on uncarpeted floor. Our hardwood floors were too cold for her, “Jiao bingliang!” Without fail, every single day, Mama would say, “Aiyo, chuan shuang tuoxie!” imploring Ron and me to wear the plethora of indoor slippers (tuoxie) lying around the house. We all know what those slippers look like: the black pair of XXXL Reebok sandals, the plastic it’s-bumpy-so-it-massages-your-soles’-pressure-points-when-you-walk flip-flops, the bright red (good luck color!) bathroom slippers, basically any pair of sandals below $5 found at Ross.
The crescendoing schlack-schlack-schlack of Mama’s tuoxie coming toward my closed bedroom door was always anxiety-inducing. If I heard it, it usually meant that 1.) I’d be asleep and was being awakened more and more with each schlack until she would violently burst into the room to wake me up for work, 2.) I’d be asleep and was being awakened more and more with each schlack until she would violently burst into the room just to talk for no reason, or 3.) I’d be asleep and was being awakened more and more with each schlack until she would violently burst into the room to yell at me for not spending time with her.
My entire apartment is uncarpeted. Considering how old this building is as well as the fact that New York City isn’t exactly known for its “cleanliness,” my roommate and I never walk around without wearing a pair of our indoor-slippers.
Every once in a while, usually on a lazy weekend morning, the blissful darkness of my sleep would be slowly but surely disturbed with the crescendoing sound of schlack-schlack-schlack coming toward my room. With my eyes still closed, I’d undergo a Pavlovian response: my body would tense up, thoughts of, “Don’t come in, Mama! I’m sleeping! Why is she waking me up? What did I do now? Please just leave me alone!” would swarm my head, and I’d squeeze my eyes tightly shut, willing myself to fall back into deep sleep. I’d hear the loudest schlack right outside of my door–I’m practically holding my breath at this point, bracing myself for the door to be burst open, to hear Mama’s loud voice–but the schlack would continue past my door, decrescendo down the hall, and disappear into my roommate’s room.
I’d open my eyes, and I’m in my apartment in New York. Mama didn’t burst into my room to rudely wake me up, to force me to converse with her, to yell at me because I had upset her.
And in those moments, those few seconds, I always wish she did.
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