My mother was out-of-town yesterday. That’s fine by me.
Not because I have a particularly complicated relationship with my mother. No more than anyone else does, I suppose. Mostly, I hate getting her flowers.
I used to enjoy getting flowers for her birthday or celebration. Only recently did I notice everyone else does too. But for her sake, my mother won’t have to accept all those flowers from children this year.
Being the eternal host, I know she’d accept the flowers with a graceful smile and heartfelt gratitude. All her biologicals would feel pride in having gifted well. My mother would then have to gather all the flowers together, possibly asking one of us or her boyfriend for help since one of the arrangements “es tan precioso” she doesn’t want to crush it. When home, she’d unload the flowers from her car, remove them from their paper or plastic wrappings, and finally snip the ends off at a 45-degree angle. She’ll have to find three or four various vases in which to place these expensive arrangements. She’ll pour in the green packet of flower food they give you. And then she’ll have to figure where the vases go.
Thinking of this is why I don’t want to get her flowers on a day celebrating her.
As a fiercely independent male, I spent most of my youth trying to keep my mother and family at arms-length. Given that their busy personal and professional schedules, they left me to my own wily devices. I thought I was successful at pushing them away. As I’ve navigated my 20s, I’ve learned how to better identify and solve my problems, internally and externally. This has meant being honest with myself and my mistakes.
I’ve turned over a new leaf, you might say. So has my mother as she enters a 5th stage of her life, one where she’s not burdened with the stress of restaurant operations, unhappy romantic relationships, or the care of her own mother. She’s noticeably happier, less stressed, and joyful in a way I’ve never seen before. To be frank, it’s been weird.
As I’ve lowered my defensive walls and retracted my arms, I’ve felt more comfortable to be more honest with my mother and rest of my family. At first, lowering my guard was difficult. Soon I learned that my family was always there, ready to love and accept me.
That means talking. With me, it means talking a lot. To their chagrin, it means talking about both strengths and weaknesses. Not just mine either, since my strengths and weaknesses are tied to that of my family. Perhaps it’s impolite to discuss such things, or to impart such honesty to family, but I am what I am.
My mother had her faults, like any of my friends’ moms, I suppose. I’ve never been resentful. Maybe there once was resentment, but I would’ve had no idea where it came from. It was simply “the way I was.” Now, I’ve grown up and notice these things.
At first my mother bristled at the unbridled candor. So she knew I wasn’t defensive about discussing her imperfection in raising her three children, I have assured her that there was only acceptance. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
In conversations discussing how I felt growing up, I’ve ended up giving more reasons why she was trying her best given the circumstances: 1st generation college grad with a child, aspirationally middle-class, traveling salesperson, restaurant owner, unhappy wife, divorcée, caretaker of an elder parent.
My mother was simply reacting to obstacles in her way. That’s not simply an empty line, but something that I truly believe. Not many people wake up every day, flip open their notebook, and review the ways in which they’ll be a better spouse, parent, sibling, or child. (The ones that do are most likely very annoying.) Daily, we lean on our strengths and force others to bear our weaknesses. I’ve tired of that routine and I’d decided to be proactive with these relationships.
As I learn more about myself, the more I learn about where my roots are planted and about the soil, water, and sun that nourish me to grow.
I know I won’t make the same mistakes my mother did. That’s for sure. I’ll make all new ones.