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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2001

Don't forget other moms who took you under their wing

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Staff Writer

She comforted you when no one else knew what to do with your fussy self. She cooked better than just about anyone on the planet. She took you places you never thought you'd get to go.

And she wasn't even related to you.

There was just something special about your friend's mom; something your friend couldn't see, something you wouldn't dare mention to your own mom.

For one thing, she could make stuff your mom never attempted. (My best friend's mom made the best Chex party mix, prune mui, papaya jam ... the list is long.) And she took you along to restaurants your own family never went to, even let you order the expensive stuff and not just the small chicken.

If you were lucky, well-behaved or just good at ho'omalimali, you got invited to dinner a lot.

At graduation, she's the one who gave you the money lei in the largest denomination.

She was funny, cracking jokes you couldn't believe a mother would tell — not because they were nasty or anything, but because they were actually funny.

You could tell her stuff, things you couldn't talk to your own mom about. And she could tell you stuff back, give you advice or words of wisdom that would have sounded totally lame coming from one of your own parents.

Not that she was better than your mom. She was just different from your mom. A mom with all the experience and qualifications, but enough distance to cut you some slack. She knew your mom was taking care of you, and that she was just there for backup. Plus, she had her own kids to stress over. You got the best part of the deal.

Sometimes, the relationship is overt, and you can call your friend's mom Ma or Second Mom or perhaps Auntie. Maybe she claims you as her "other daughter" or her "extra son."

But most of the time, it's casual. You just end up being a part of the family because she always makes room for you, always plans for you to be there.

Chances are you wonder why your own mom can't be so cool, while your friend has no idea why you think his mom is so extraordinary.

The funny thing is realizing your mom is just the same way to your friends.

She cooks their favorite stuff when they come over, even if it's not your favorite stuff. She buys them Christmas presents, and you notice she dropped some bucks on them and didn't just get a $5 box of dried apricots. She invites them over to family gatherings before you do. When they're away at college, she sends them care packages with way better stuff than she sends you.

In my house, it was pancit. I liked it, my best friend LOVED it, so my mother made it all the time — but only when she came over. If I wanted my mom to make pancit, I had to say my friend was coming for dinner, and then get on the phone real fast.

On this day when we honor our mothers, it's nice to also remember the women who took care of us, even though we didn't belong to them. They could have told us to go on home to our own houses, but instead, they made room at their table, and they made extra pancit.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Her e-mail address is lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.