As she sat in front of her new Samsung thirty-seven inch high deﬁnition TV, large pillows stuffed inside handmade pillow cases both adorned and propped my mother on her bed. She changed channels every few minutes to see if there was anything worth watching. While the ﬂickering lights might have mimicked Morse code to neighboring homes, I looked out onto the backyard in the hopes of seeing other ﬂickering lights. I pressed my ﬁngers against the cold glass and saw the fog lifting from the San Francisco hills that brisk spring evening. It was impossible going into her bedroom and not looking out the window. As a little girl, I tippy-toed to see more than the frame. Now, my hands rest comfortably on the sill and Iʼm able to see everything. That sill handled the weight and pressure of my maturing hands. Often times, I tried to get deep and poetic with my mother. However, this evening, I, too, marveled at her new television set.
“Damn, you can see every damn pore on her face!”
“Look at this”, as she continues ﬂipping through the channels until she gets to a show on Discovery, “look at how crisp and clear everything is!”
Excitement over a television set brought laughter into her dim lit room ﬁlled with piles of clothes, accessories, my Dadʼs night stand, and my motherʼs perfume – Amazing Grace. I wore Amazing Grace to work once and a friend commented on how it smelled too old, too maternal. I didnʼt care and I still donʼt. It was comforting. Glancing around the room, the television set was the only thing worth paying attention to. The worst was yet to come. With this new black framed sleek TV came larger viewing real estate for Home Shopping Network. Oh dear. Momʼs fascination with shopping from TV seemed to increase and I found her spending directly proportional to whatever her mood and feeling was for the week. The one beneﬁt – she would always get two of something. One for me. One for her. To date, the most useful item she scored was the Clarsonic facial brush that exfoliates as it cleans, which is also safe for shower use! However, when she bought a pair of black exercise leggings that could barely ﬁt my arms, I wasnʼt so thrilled.
“Hey Mom, umm, have you thought of donating any of these clothes or things?”
“Yeah, I will. At some point. Iʼve just been really busy.”
Really busy? Youʼve been unemployed for the past 6 months waking up, drinking your coffee, going to see grandpa, getting home, and watching documentaries or Korean soap operas. Youʼve learned Korean phrases that American tourists are probably struggling with at this very moment visiting Korea. All of this and she tells me she doesnʼt have time. Trying to keep the inner monologue inside but failing, the words just blurt out,
“Oh but you can buy a big ass TV and learn more Korean phrases! Yeah, sure, Mom, you so donʼt have any time on your hands.”
Laughing in tandem, we continue to watch the bright vibrant colors. She resists as long as she possibly could but my presence isnʼt a hindrance and she has never been deterred by my commentary about spending money comfortably from her bed. I often wonder what drained my Mom of her energy to go out take walks and window shop. This TV is her window. Ever since Dad and grandma passed away and she got laid off from a job she loathed, this fantasy and escapism in a brightly lit box seems to captivate her attention even more than my physical presence. She normally offers to cook me something but weʼre engaged with the images on screen. Talk is minimal but when we do talk, I normally ask about Dad or grandma or how she felt about arriving in San Francisco that autumn evening in 1978. She said it wasnʼt too dissimilar from Manila due to the honking horns and the banter on the street. She soon stops. Her story fascinates and enthralls me. Sheʼs disinterested. A panini machine with auto shut off capability for only three installments of $19.99 intrigue her. I remember asking her how she lived with Dad, his mental instability, and my grandparents in the same household for more than 20 years. My questions never get old and usually end on a question about having me. With the obligation of being the oldest, leaving the dirt roads and simplicity of the province, marrying someone you didnʼt love and barely knew, bringing your family here to the states, and her heart worn and tattered, I ask again, “You say you are but I feel like youʼre not. I have to believe you but do you regret marrying Dad? Do you regret having me?”
She looks away from the TV with her round cheeks softening a bit, her face relaxed,and her perpetually glossy eyes that always look like she going to cry never does and softly speaks the words I always love to hear,
I donʼt regret it.
- Dorothy Santos
Dorothy Santos is a writer, blogger, and curator. Born and raised in San Francisco, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco. As arts editor and curator of Asterisk San Francisco Magazine + Gallery and blogger for ZERO1: Arts and Technology Network and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA), she enjoys writing about artists and engaging with the community. Her work appears in Art Practical, Stretcher, Creative Applications Network, and Planting Rice. She serves as a Board Member for the SOMArts Cultural Center and currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies from the California College of the Arts. Her research emphasis is on computational aesthetics, programming, coding, and open source culture and their effects on contemporary art.
She is an active member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of AF3IRM.