For the past month I have been doing research for a book I am writing on the mother-daughter bond. In Gabor Mate’s exquisitely profound In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, he presents evidence that babies need to feel attunement and connection from their mothers in order for proper brain development. If they lack these important ingredients in their evolution, they will grow up hungry for love and look for it externally through various means—oftentimes in addictive substances and through pleasure-seeking and non self-regulating behaviors. The book was heartbreaking and explains a lot of crises within the psyche of today’s humanity where we are constantly too busy to connect intimately with those we love.
I have been actively seeking instances over the past six months to bond one-on-one with friends and family rather than relying on social media to give me curated glimpses of their lives. During this time I have noticed visceral changes in my own sense of wellbeing and the poignancy of life. Whether spending three hours at a fancy afternoon tea, floating in a swimming pool drinking rainbow sherbet floats, or enjoying a pot of bibimbap at the Korean Spa – these moments with singular friends have taught me that there is simply no substitute for a great conversation over food between two people. Those are really the only moments I care to have and they make up a great percentage of the life I share with the Cute Gardener – a duo bellied up to a bar or glancing across the landscape of table at each other.
My daughter and I have a tradition that has carried on since she was a child that I share with nobody else. When she was little I turned her on to Thai food at a popular joint in town. Our first meal together consisted of a simple steaming, silver, donut-shaped pot of Tom Kha Gai soup spiked with lemongrass, chicken, and coconut milk and a small bowl of white rice back in those days when, as a single mother, I was too poor for much more. In the years that followed, the table merrily expanded to include fried potstickers, pad Thai and Thai tea—perhaps a small salad of iceberg lettuce with peanut sauce. Fifteen years later and the menu remains the same.
Only nowadays I am not driving us down to the corner restaurant to enjoy my Thai for two mommy and daughter meals. Today, I drive an hour to my daughter’s place to a restaurant she frequents with her boyfriend. She was beaming with pride the first time we ate there when, upon our entrance, all of the staff knew her name and called out with smiles making us feel right at home. She was so proud to show me her favorite booth and to order our traditional meal only with her novel addition of egg rolls and some fried donuts in coconut frosting at the end as a splurge. During these times we never stop talking while pouring rice into our soup, filling each other up on news from our lives while slurping boba from the bottom of our glasses, sharing the stop-and-go interrupted bouts of conversation and laughter while licking sweet sauces from our spoon, asking each other advice as we reveal secrets and point out bits of milk on each other’s lips –all the while exposing both confidence and vulnerability. We’ve been doing it since day one and although the subjects have changed the content never has – that of a mother and daughter bonding in a pocket of time held sacred for only them. This is as essential as breathing and needs to be fed.