World’s Okayest Mom

Lonely rubber ducky in Camden harbor.

Lonely rubber ducky in Camden harbor.
You might know my young friend Sandy Quang. She was my painting student for a long time, then my studio assistant, and sometimes my workshop monitor. Most recently, she worked at Camden Falls Gallery.
Sandy’s parents run a restaurant called Dac Hoa. It’s a small eatery on the edge of downtown Rochester, known for its fresh Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese food. Ha, Kahn and Nu know this range of cuisine because their families left China during the Chinese Civil War and settled in Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon they moved along again, eventually ending up in Rochester. I respect them for their courage, hard work, and integrity. Through Sandy, we’ve become friends.
"My parents’ restaurant," graphite on paper, approx. 16X18, 2008, by Sandy Quang.
“My parents’ restaurant,” graphite on paper, approx. 16X18, 2008, by Sandy Quang.
When I was a kid, I had a crush on an imaginary boy called Homer Price. I loved him because he was nice and could fix anything. Years later, I met him in the form of a gangling high school student. We’ve had four kids and grown grey together.
At the time, I didn’t know anything about Homer Price’s creator, Deer Isle’s own Robert McCloskey. I’d never seen his other children’s book classics. But I raised my own kids on a steady diet of his books. My youngest took Make Way for Ducklings very much to heart. The lad loved everything about ducks. “Well, that’s cute,” I thought. His obsession about ducks was just one of those things that were in the background of our collective family consciousness.
And then he was slightly older and we were at Dac Hoa during a Christmas season very much like this. He was restive and annoying, as little boys are wont to be. Looking to amuse him, I showed him the roasted ducks in the window. To this day, I have no idea why I thought this would be a good idea.

"Sandy’s parents’ restaurant interior," graphite, approx. 18X24, 2008, by Zeyuan Chen.

“Sandy’s parents’ restaurant interior,” graphite, approx. 18X24, 2008, by Zeyuan Chen.
He dissolved into howling, violent grief. Our dinner, obviously, was ruined. The lad cried for days.
“That boy is going to be in therapy for years,” I thought ruefully.
Last week we were in Dac Hoa celebrating the same kid’s 20th birthday. I asked him if he remembered the incident with the ducks. My husband pulled an exasperated face. Nu laughed. And my son also laughed. I’m so relieved.
I simultaneously believe that parenting is our most important job and that kids make their way somehow despite it. I guess for this youngest one, “World’s Okayist Mom” was good enough.
Christmas is the season of grace-made-manifest through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It’s nice to know I’m forgiven.