February 2013, Spice Market.
You can call her Pam.
You initially studied painting as an undergrad but you graduated with a degree in environmental design. Once you told me that you decided to veer away from a painting career because you didn’t have the personality to treat it like a job (waking up and painting for 8 hours straight). Have you always been that self-perceptive? Or how did you develop that kind of self perception at such a young age?
I think I approached life very impulsively during my childhood and I made a conscientious effort to develop rational and logical decision making, I think it happens this way for a lot of people. As I began living on my own, I had to learn to be socially-analytical, to place myself within my new environment and assess myself and the kind of impression I thought I was making on others. I also discovered that I was attracted to people who could think logically and communicate ideas rationally, so I decided to train myself to become more objective by practicing rational decision making and not only reacting emotionally because this is generally a very negative place. I felt more like the person I wanted to be every time I did this successfully and I was able to get to know myself better without the emotional fallout to wade through. I also think that my architectural training taught me how to analyze creative impulses and maintain clear intellectual discipline in developing a design. It took me a few years before the scale tipped in my personal decision making to a point where I was making more rational than irrational decisions. It also helps to surround yourself with reasonable people.
So our family is pretty good at living forever. We have a five generation photo of Great-Great-Grandma, Great-Grandma, Grandma, you, and me! Aside from the obvious – learning about history from the ones that lived through it – what have you taken away from being so close to people that have known totally different eras than your own?
I remember being a small child in Taiwan and I was living with my grandmother at that time. I remember often having the overwhelming desire to be close to her, that hearing her voice talking to someone else in the next room or sitting on her lap as she brushed my hair put me in a state of complete bliss. I had a similar intensity of feeling when you and Eli were small; holding you and being physically close to you heightened a fundamental sense of wellbeing in me. Those memories of communicating without talking are some of the strongest that I have. I actually think that is why I enjoy gardening too, do you remember the closing scene in the movie “I am Love” by the director Luca Guadagnino? The main character played by Tilda Swindon leaves her bourgeois life and the movie closes with a scene of her gardening and she is so radiant with happiness! That scene really stuck with me as the act of gardening was depicted as being so sensual.
An easy one: what’s your favorite vegetable to grow and/or eat?
I love all of the vegetables that I grow (otherwise I wouldn’t grow them) and I usually have a favorite way to cook each. A non-exhaustive list below:
Kale sautéed in olive oil with garlic and big flakes of smoked salt
Brussel sprouts coated in oil and broiled until they are charred on the outside pepper, blue cheese and nuts
Cauliflower browned in a skillet without oil, blue cheese sprinkled on top
Baby chard leaf salad
Chard sautéed with garlic
Fava beans with pancetta and parmesan
Tomatoes and peach salad
Camponata made with my eggplant
Indian eggplant dish – Baingan Bharta
What can you write about your own mother that doesn’t conjure fifth grade memories of answering the question”who is your hero?” Which, by the way, also reminds me of Martin Luther King Jr. Is that something to talk about? Mother heroes and the untouchable legendary heroes. Another time.
Pam and I met twenty four years ago in Princeton, New Jersey’s birthing center and our relationship has been steadfast ever since. Really though, she has been a guiding light in everything I do. “Which shoes do I wear?! What job do I take? How do I say yes/no to this thing?” As seen in her first answer, she’s a thinker. Decisions big and small are carefully considered and the most pragmatic path taken. This doesn’t mean she’s hyper serious – I’ve seen her dance until dawn – but her presence is incredibly calming. I really admire her ability to completely balance rational and emotional awareness. Also, she’s my friend! Like actually my friend. Our parent/offspring roles are overarching but when we sit down on the couch with coffee we talk about things like two adults which I swear is the thing that has made me grow up. Thanks mom!