Burned Toast Syndrome

“A mother held her new baby and very slowly rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And while she held him, she sang:
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.


Well, that mother, she got older. She got older and older and older. One day she called up her son and said, “You’d better come see me because I’m very old and sick.” So her son came to see her. When he came in the door she tried to sing the song. She sang:
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always…
But she couldn’t finish because she was too old and sick. The son went to his mother. He picked her up and rocked her back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And he sang this song:
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my Mommy you’ll be.”


Love you Forever By Robert Munsch

One of my most favorite memories from my childhood is waking up before the sun even comes up to watch Saturday morning cartoons with my brother. While during the rest of the week my parents basically had to drag us to the bus stop, Saturdays we knew how to wake up all on our own. By the time we finished the first episode of Looney Tunes, my parents would make their way downstairs. Saturdays also meant not having to eat a boring bowl of whole wheat Crispix cereal. Instead my mom would whip us up pancakes, french toast, omelets, or one of a hundred yummy Indian breakfast dishes, while my dad would call our relatives back in India. I loved Saturdays. I loved the sounds of a bustling kitchen. I loved listening to my dad yell into the phone as if he was speaking loud enough so our relatives abroad could hear directly. Our tiny home became alive. Once the food hit the stove, we were ready with our plates to grab it and get back to our cartoons. In between commercials, when I would rush with my plate to get the next hot and ready piece, I would see that in the midst of doing a million chores in the morning, occasionally a dosa, french toast, or pancake would get burned. My mom would always set those aside and hand us a perfectly cooked piece, only to later eat the burned ones herself.

I always used to wonder how she could bear the taste of burned toast. The charred pieces were bitter and ruined the taste in your mouth. Why not make another one or eat something else? She always did this. Then I started to think maybe she just liked the taste of burned food. As I grew older, I started to ponder these thoughts more and more. I tried to come up with a logical explanation as to why she did this. Several years later I conducted a little experiment. I made a batch of pancakes for breakfast one day and left them on the kitchen counter. In that batch there were pancakes that were cooked perfectly and ones I deliberately cooked longer. I waited and watched as my each member of my family picked their share. My brother came in and sifted through all of them looking for the best ones and left. My dad took whatever one was on top and left. Then it was my mom’s turn. She looked at me and told me to take before her. I grabbed one good one and one slightly burned one and left the rest on the plate. For the first time in her life she took one that wasn’t burned. I intently watched her that day. It was clear, she didn’t particularly enjoy the taste of burned food. I gave her a diagnosis of Burned Toast syndrome (BTS). She behaved similarly with other things. When she would cut an apple for us, she would leave all the pieces for us and take the core for herself. When making our beds, she would give the newest bedsheets to us and take the torn ones for herself. I noticed my dad did it as well. When my brother and I were old enough to drive he gave us the newest car and took the oldest one for himself. What made people behave like this? What was the cause of this burned toast syndrome?

Years later while I was experiencing one of the lowest points in my life, I saw the symptoms of their BTS flare up. They were even more compassionate and displayed unfathomable, unconditional love. Their existence was dependent on my happiness. In fact, that seemed to be the only cure. It was in these last few years that I truly understood what parental love really is. Setting aside your own wants and desires and solely being concerned with the health and happiness of your child. Setting aside the best of what you have and giving it to the one you love most. Not being a parent, I can’t completely understand where this love comes from.

As my parents started to get older, I began to notice a bit of role reversal. I started developing the early symptoms of BTS. In some ways I see myself becoming their parent. I worry about their diet and make them exercise. While driving in bad weather I ask them to call once they’ve reached their destination. While my dad mows the lawn, I run out with a hat and tell him to take breaks and drink water. And then when he doesn’t listen, I scold him and tell him about the effects of dehydration. I take my mom to her appointments and flood her doctor with “what if” questions about her health. I feel like I’m more stressed than ever, worrying about their well being and happiness. Only it isn’t the kind of stress I have about studying or worrying about student loans. It’s a stress that I gain genuine happiness from. A kind of happiness I had not ever felt before.

Being a young immigrant to this country has given me better understanding of the hardships my parents went through to get to where they are today. How frightening it must have been to come to a foreign land and have to build a life for your family from the ground up. They taught me the importance of family, building relationships in the community, and helping one another. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m just like every other kid and have times where I fight with my parents. Sometimes they just don’t see where I’m coming from. They are just so stubborn and strong-willed. But that’s when I realize that this is where I got all of my qualities from. My work ethic and resilience comes from a long family history of BTS patients. And I hope someday I pass on this syndrome to my kids.

So take the time today to look at your life and see how much sacrifice was made by your parents to get you to where you are right now.


Coincidentally, this is a picture of what today’s breakfast looked like =)


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