My mom never experienced much affection at all from her mom. Her dad died when she was only six, and my mom was the youngest of ten kids in a country, culture, and household where girls were deemed to be useless. My maternal grandmother looked at my mom as the lowest of the low: not only was she a girl, she was also the youngest of ten, so she was of the least importance to her of all the kids. I think my mom took this to heart and instead as a mom to me, always made sure to hug and kiss me and to remind me constantly that she loved me. I don’t believe she did it as much with Ed because he was a boy and therefore less likely to reciprocate with any of the above.
But the one way she always showed love to both of us was trying to get us to eat as much as possible. It’s an Asian parent thing, I suppose, that even if words and actions fail that food will always succeed. No food consumed was ever enough. “Are you still hungry?” “Eat some more.” “Have more of this.” <Adds more stew/stir-fry/dumplings/whatever is on the table to your plate>. The more we would eat, the happier she would be. When I leave home to go back to New York or wherever I am going, during the last meal together, she always insists on my eating more and more and more. And then, if that were not enough, she tries to pack me as many things as possible, whether it’s lao po bing (these winter melon cakes I like that my dad just bought in Chinatown) or more bao “just in case you get hungry on the plane.” This time, I can’t carry as much since I’m heading to LA for the next few days, so she is dismayed that she cannot add much to my luggage. So she insists as she does each time that I a) stay for longer and b) bring a bigger suitcase so she can pack more food for me.
It’s a little crazy and overbearing in some ways (she has legitimately tried to get me to pack 5 pounds of oranges in my luggage to take back from San Francisco to New York!), but in other ways, it’s extremely endearing and an obvious sign of love and affection, so it’s hard for me to tell her that she can’t pack me food because that’s almost like telling her she cannot show me love. To my mom, food is love, and it’s how she communicates she loves me… and how she used to communicate that she loved Ed.