My mother is a devout Catholic. This fact has not changed since I was born.
What has changed is the fact that I am no longer a devout Catholic. This fact, by itself, poses a threat to my mother. It’s one of the many things that we disagree about—why I don’t go to church, and why I shouldn’t “abandon” my religion, because after all, I was born into it.
Yes, my mother is one of those people who believe in lifelong loyalty to a religion. I think of it as a supercilious affection to an institution that as of recently, bores deep, dark secrets that nobody can justify other than it being horrendous and traumatic. Aside from that, some might even say that it is cult-like.
But I’m not here to talk about my views on religion, or my experience with it. I can assure you though, that it did not involve any trauma, besides the fact that I was never allowed to choose my religion. Simply put, I was born into it, and thus I must remain in it—that is what my mom believes anyway.
What I am here to say is that my mother has found another contender, a supporter of her religion—my five-year-old daughter—and together, they go to church every Sunday—without me, of course.
This alone is a source of glee for me. I see it as a win-win, and I can’t wait for Sundays to come, for my mom would show up at 10 a.m. (religiously on time) and take my daughter Lily to church. Afterwards, they’d go to the usual sushi restaurant adjacent to the local Fubonn shopping center in town—a simple conveyor belt style kind of place—and together, they would have sushi for lunch.
But that’s not all. Usually Lily would insist that Grandma, whom she fondly calls “Ba Ngoai” (which means grandma in Vietnamese), take her inside the shopping center, where she can ride those mechanical animals—the ones where you’d put in 50 cents to ride for a few minutes. Then, before they head home, she would also insist that Ba Ngoai purchase another “treat” for her, usually a sweet one, such as these Yan Yan sticks or sweet, crunchy crackers. Sometimes, she’d come home with more than one treat.
This, I assure you, is no accident. My daughter is the perpetrator of all of these events. You see—many months ago, when my mom suggested that she take Lily to church with her as to get used to our religion—I reluctantly agreed to let Lily go. Little did I know that it would release me of one kid (so I only have my son to watch), and that she would manage to convince my mom to buy her sushi every single time they go to church. Sushi after church is their new ritual.
It’s a fair deal, I think. My daughter is a very smart little girl who can barter better than I can. Like many children, she loves sweet treats. Unlike many children, she also loves sushi. By agreeing to go to church with Grandma, she is in theory getting what she wants while at the same time, my mother gets what she wants—which is to introduce my daughter to Catholicism, and hoping she’ll turn into a lifelong believer.
This morning, when my mom came over to pick Lily up for church, she commented on how much my daughter resembles me when I was her age. This is where I say, “Maybe,” because although Lily holds certain personality traits similar to mine (her shyness, for one), she is still her own person, and we are more different than alike, I think. This morning, she wore this ridiculous white dress with puffer sleeves and a bow tied in the back (similar to a 90s wedding gown), something I hated wearing as a child but was made to wear constantly; Lily, on the other hand, loves dresses of any kind, and she’ll wear them wholeheartedly, especially if it’s one that is gifted from a family member. (No surprise, my mother bought her that dress).
The way I see it—they’re getting quality time together, something I wish I had with my grandparents but unfortunately never did. Because of that, I want my daughter to develop a relationship with my mother. Their time is theirs to decide. I just wish I had the same treatment when I was young. But I also wished that I was smart enough to bribe my own grandmother (or mother) to buy me things that I like when I was little, in exchange for going to church. Perhaps then I might’ve stayed a true lifelong believer.