Money and Mum

My family doesn’t have much. We are way closer to poor than we are rich and it’s been that way for a while. Much like many immigrants in early 1990’s London, my parents worked hard, slaving away at textile factories as soon as they touched down. They saved every penny and opened up their own grocery store a few years later. Thanks to a fraudulent partner, that didn’t last long. Ever since, my mother has been the frugal saver in the family. She stopped trusting my father with money from that point onward, and to be fair, I don’t blame her. 

I remember the first time I was told I was a brat. It was a girl from Wales who let the word freely escape her mouth after I told her I got my first job when I was 19. I broke down the cultural difference to her, after I let my indignation and bewilderment settle, but before I could finish she boasted her newspaper round job she had when she was 12. I didn’t bother to tell her that my neighbourhood didn’t have newspaper rounds and that when I heard my mother say “I would sell the t-shirt off of my back before that happens” I knew it meant “I didn’t move to this country so my child can work before she has to”. 

The thing about my mother is that she never spends money on herself. Typical immigrant mother mentality. She’ll buy something somewhat slightly out of her range and then come home, not even sleep on it and return it the next day. Buyer’s remorse is her knee-jerk reaction as soon as the transaction is processed. When the store assistant is asking if she would like the receipt in the bag, my mother is formulating an excuse as to why she doesn’t need what she just bought. Nothing I say or do can ever stem that inundating regret that comes gushing out. 

I remember when she started to bring home things that she had bought from the second hand charity shops. She’d read the labels on the £5 blouse she bought and look searchingly at my face for a reaction that showed surprise at how she grabbed a deal. None of the brands she read back to me from those labels rang any bells but I would tell her she did good anyway. I hate that she rummages through those racks. I hate it. But it’s the only way she won’t take something back. 

“You’re my only hope, Pelin” she says, through choked tears. “I do it all for you”. There’s a Turkish saying that goes something like “drop by drop, a lake is formed”. So drop by drop, she saves money for me. All I can do is save tears for her. Fear of insecurity is the powering force and money is merely an instrument to relieve one generation from the vulnerability of the generation before. I tried to relieve my mother of some of that fear by studying as hard as I could but despite working hard to be educationally rich, I crossed the border and my currency is now too weak for the country of Career. Sometimes I don’t know if I left London so I could relieve myself of her crushing disappointment or relieve her of my crushing helplessness. 

Relief is deeply sought but rarely felt in my life. I live day to day, cheque to cheque, Skype call to Skype call. I tell her of my plans and look searchingly for her face for a reaction that shows encouragement but she’s tired. I try not to let her fatigue infect me but it’s hard when we have this mutual dependency. Like a person that keeps telling their debtor “I’ll get you the money tomorrow” every day, I tire her out with my words. It’s probably why I try my best not to say much and let my efforts build up, drop by drop, and maybe one day a lake will form and I can find a way to refund all of this disappointment.