Coming to a City Near You: The Shuddered Shutters.

Eight hour road trips with your parents let you think. However, my mother had other plans. She brought a book, an action that was quite rare.  I did notice it was a rather elementary novel, but I suppose I understand why pulling out Tolstoy on a bumpy car ride was not her first choice. The drive dragged on, and while I pride myself on my playlists, (The title for this trip was naturally called ‘My Sways or the Highway’) the amount of times I rudely reached toward the front of the car to hit skip on our Honda CRV were piling on. 80’s hits for two minutes, 90’s punk for eight. I noticed on one of my highly illegal reaches my mother was on page 27. Good for her. A respected physician who can also read 27 pages of a leisurely novel. The next renaissance man. As she noticed my glance, she asked me what shuddered meant. Shuddered. I flipped through the definitions of the thousands of verbs English teachers have been shoving down my throat to give my mother a correct response. 

“It’s sort of like what your body does if you see something that scares you. You shudder.”

She continued to read as I kept cowardly attempting to liven up the music queue. My father, the one behind the wheel, was reciting driving advice to me. Straighten your arms when you turn, check for blind spots, and do not dance. Never dance behind the wheel. In an attempt to occupy myself with absolutely any other thought than my dad dancing, I glanced back at my mom’s book. I do not know what book it actually was, but I did notice one of the characters names was Jonas. (This led me to the thought of the one infamous early 2000’s boy band I had neglected to include in my stellar playlist.) My mother interrupted my train of thought by reaching for her cell phone in her purse. Well, now I know, 27 pages was her limit. However, she did not tap on the word game I had expected. She immediately opened the dictionary app. She slowly typed the word slyly. I have always known what sly meant, or at least for as long as I can remember. Sly was just one of those words people just knew, right? How could she not know what it meant? In my opinion, a word that should only be used if discussing the subject of foxes. Also, why didn’t she just ask me what it meant? Was my definition of shudder not good enough? did she shudder at my description of shudder? Why do shudder and shutters, the things on windows, sound exactly the same? And why didn’t anyone name their band the Shuddered Shutters back in ‘87? Moving on. 

She skimmed through the three short definitions her phone provided and continued her exploration by searching the word cunning. I can only assume cunning was in each definition for slyly, because she had not continues reading. However, cunning is not an advanced word. How did she not know what it meant? At this point, I stopped hitting skip and sat back in my seat to write this story. 

My mother is in no way incompetent. She went to college, medical school, residency, and everything in between for a decade in order to become successful. However, something that I often forget is that she had learn everything twice. 

Whenever history teachers gave us the cliche assignment to trace when our families migrated to the United States, mine was always a bit different than my classmates. Most kids traced some great great Italian relative who set off with just one suitcase full of dreams. Some students had no idea and just picked a random European country out of a hat. I, on the other hand, just wrote about myself.

 My parents are the first generation of my family to come to America. My sister and I were not born in this country, but the United States is all we can remember. My dad went to the University of Texas for college, back to Iran to marry my mom, then we all came back to the United States after I was born. My mother was in her early 30’s. She was quite the scholar back in Iran, but in America, none of that mattered. She never left the Middle East beforehand, but had to quickly adapt. When we first arrived, I was so young that I still could not talk, and frankly neither could my mother. Many assumed we were Hispanic, so my mother had a difficulty learning English when people would talk to us in Spanish. It did not matter that my mom was in the top of her class in Iran. She had to do her residency all over again in order to get a job in America. So my mother is a woman who had to relearn everything she already knew in a a language she did not understand. Plus, she had two screaming kids at home who demanded attention all hours of the day. This is what makes her a renaissance man. My mother is incredible, and here we are 15 years later in a car full of Persian cucumbers and tea. Some things clearly do not change. So if my mother still does not know what sly means, that is more than okay. 

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