It is no secret to close friends or family that in the past, we didn’t always get along. I was a slightly angry, wild, rebellious, troublesome thing for a few years and I’m sure my behavior saddened and/or scared you. For a while, it seemed that we couldn’t agree on anything, and third party members would be called into our little quarrels to try and clear the air. How tiresome! Thank goodness, the teenage era is only 7 long years.
Now (and for sometime, let’s be clear) I think of you and how much I love and miss you, not unusually, with teary eyes. Our relationship has changed so much since 8 years ago when we last lived together… Sometimes I am sad that I cannot live closer to you or spend more time where you are. Now, I look forward to our time together with growing excitement, to Scrabble marathons and cupcake missions, to days walking the boardwalk, or at the Gymboree with Tal. And yet I dread the inevitable goodbye at the end. Although living far apart can be sad, I see so much of you in me, and I think spiritually I keep you by my side. I know I wouldn’t be taking on my next big adventure if it wasn’t for you. I am so proud of you and everything you do and have done for our family. For giving me my three brothers (I really don’t need a sister), for being the little black sheep of your generation, for being independent, true to yourself, and showing me that it’s okay to be more than a little quirky.
If you weren’t my mother, I might not walk the beach with my chin held high, picking up trash and striking conversation with strangers about taking better care of the planet. If you weren’t my mother, I wouldn’t know how to put a handful of spices and veggies into a dish to create something aromatic and delicious. If you weren’t my mother, I might be too scared to speak up when I witness someone being unfairly treated. If you weren’t my mother, I wouldn’t be this proud, independent, feminist of a young woman, demanding respect and seeking to do good in the world. If you weren’t my mother, I would be someone else completely.
Thank goodness, you are my mother. You taught me to respect myself, to value my body and my brains. You taught me that there is so much fun and pleasure to be had in this world without drinking or smoking or doing things that harm my body. You taught me to be kind to others and that money isn’t everything (friends tease me for leaving cash in odd places, or crumpling up bills in my pockets and wallets; I’m pretty sure I got that from you, Eem). You taught me not to care too much what other’s think and to be myself no matter what… I have a distinct memory of you embarrassing us as kids by dancing around a Taiwanese supermarket with the shopping cart, “singing” along to the local music. I admit, I do similar things these days. You believed in me and let me make decisions for myself early on; you didn’t scold me or demand better of me when I took four years to travel instead of go to college. You supported me, even if my decisions made you nervous. You always let me be myself, whether it was the Scrabble champion, a teenage nightmare, a non-communicative backpacker, or a fellow foodie on a mission. And for that, I cannot thank you enough.
I know in a couple of months, I’m moving to what feels like the opposite side of the world (again) but in reality, I’ll only be five time zones away, whereas now I’m six. Although my decision to join the Peace Corps was mostly easy for me, the idea of being far from you and the boys (all 4 of them, for me) was definitely the hardest part of committing myself to service. The fact of the matter is, I love you immensely. I think about you and how brave and strong YOU are, about the work you do at your school, and how you are raising a toddler (for the fourth time) into another wonderful little being, and it warms my heart. I try and talk about you to whomever I can, and it’s always with pride and admiration. I know you think I needed a sister, but I know I don’t, because I have you.
Happy (American) Mother’s Day and to writng the things we don’t always say aloud. Thank you for always being there for me, even when we’re thousands of miles apart. I cannot wait to see you in just 11 days.
With all my love,