Saturday, May 17, 2014

reasons it would not be a bad thing to be like my mom

When I opened the door to my apartment, I surveyed the pieces of mail sitting on the floor. Usually it's mostly junk. But that day I saw a special postal service flat rate envelope, and I remembered: my passport. I opened it up and flipped through the pages, hoping for them to be filled with more than just my stamp for Kenya this summer. Then I looked at my photo and thought, "My gosh, I look like my mom."

Mostly, the feeling was dread. Growing up, I didn't think I looked or acted like any of my family, and in fact was pretty sure I was adopted. But as I've gotten older I recognize that my hips and height are my father's, and my thinning hair is my mother's. (she and I have a running joke about this. Me: You're getting old, see how thin your hair is! Her: Just you wait! Me: laughing on the outside, panicked on the inside.) I've also inherited a lot of habits and mannerisms from my family, like the way my dad rests his chin on his hand or my mom's insistence that tables and counters be wiped clean after meals.

Now, and for most of my adult life, I've felt a little bit of fear when I recognize these things, because however hard I've tried to avoid it, it's happening: I'm turning into my parents. I don't know why exactly I'm so afraid of that happening, other than not wanting to repeat some obvious mistakes I see, mistakes that impact me directly or that are just plane different from what I want for my life. I'm pretty sure there's something innate in this whole thing, too - like, since the moment we are born, we are learning separation (even while we learn attachment). There's something good and healthy about wanting to be myself, not someone else.

But turning out like my mom would really not be such a bad thing. My mother is gentle, caring, creative and smart. There are some reasons it would not be so bad to be like my mom, including:

Her sense of tradition. You could also call it a rut, but I like how my mother repeated (still repeats, sometimes) certain things, mostly around food. Every spring she'd bake pineapple upside down cakes for the high school spaghetti dinner. Our birthdays were always chocolate cake with white icing, and later, Dairy Queen ice cream cakes. Lasagna was for full family occasions. Tuna macaroni salad showed up at every summer church potluck or picnic. I appreciate this for many reasons, but especially now because just a taste or smell is full of so many memories and so much comfort.

Her thoughtfulness. She reserves Little House on the Prairie dvd's from the library when her grandchildren are coming. She sends cards for every holiday, and they're always on time. My first birthday in California, my mom filled a huge box with paraphernalia that represented my old home (Pennsylvania - a tshirt and hat with the name of my hometown, some Amish goodies) and my new (California - a magnet, a Mexican cookbook). She takes her grandchildren to the coolest parks around. This kind of thing can be counted on.

Her simple generosity. This story sticks out to me: On a visit a few years ago, my mom and I drove on some back country roads that winded and twisted their way to where my sister and her family lived. It was summer, so roadside stands advertised fruits and veggies. On stand at a peach farm caught my eye, and my mom quickly pulled over so we could look around. Jam, pie, fresh peaches and lots of other country goodies. I wanted some peaches and my mom was quick to buy me some. I can't say why that meant so much to me, but I still remember it and how loved I felt.

So yeah, maybe it's a little scary to see so much of my mother in my passport photo. But as long as I get more than the thinning hair, I guess it'll be ok with me.

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