It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow. I read something last night that a friend wrote in honor of his mom. As I finished that last sentence, I wish I could say that I felt the same level of appreciation and love for my own mom. But instead, my mind began to recall not so fond memories of her.
Just like any kid out there, I feel like a lot of my issues came from my relationship with my parents. In my mom’s case, I felt like she treated me more like a friend than a daughter (and probably because I was the eldest). She would open up to me about work, the latest thing she was into, and confide to me about her problems. But it was only as of late, when I finally moved out of the house, that I realized some of the wounds she had left me.
Moms, just like us, are imperfect after all.
In fact, one of the thoughts I’ve been wrestling with recently was how I was supposed to behave on holidays such as Mother’s Day. My family didn’t quite exactly fit the definition of “warm,” “affectionate,” or “sentimental.” We were never the type to post throwback photos of ourselves, partnered with a gushy caption, on social media whenever these celebrations came up (I’m not saying that’s wrong, it’s just not something my family would do).
So I found myself moping around, as I revisited some of my sour moments with her in the past. I knew this was all my own doing, as I reached for and amplified every little thing gone wrong.
This was why I was taken back when she called me later that evening, at 11:13 PM. And like a switch, my mind quickly brought me back to the present.
She called to ask if I was accompanying her to the grocery the next day. I said I couldn’t, because the security in my area got a lot stricter in the last few weeks. I jokingly asked her to buy me toilet paper and orange juice instead, which I would have delivered to my house later that day. “Ha?!” she replied. “Of all the things you ask me to buy, those are the heaviest to carry!” I knew she wouldn’t take the bait.
She then began to nag, insisting for me to do certain things around the house. “Yes, let me handle it mom,” I said. And while I did see the wisdom in it, I was more than ready to hang up the moment she finished her speech.
But, in a split-second decision, I chose to share with her how my friends started these weekly game nights in order to keep in touch. She seemed deeply interested, and began asking me questions about the dynamics of it. After that, she started opening up about personal and work updates.
The topic of work seemed to dominate the rest of the conversation (I was used to this by now). She was so eager to share every detail at great length, so I naturally began to zone out. I stopped listening to her stories, and focused my attention to the sound of her voice.
To my surprise, her voice did something to me. I began to cry silently, and I couldn’t get myself to stop. A flood of emotions I couldn’t understand rushed over me—Nostalgia? Homesickness? The feeling of missing someone?
How could I be so quick to switch how I felt about her in a matter of minutes?
How could my mom’s voice incite and reconcile two polar opposite pathways within me: the unpleasant pain of memories past that I’m still healing from, but also this soothing comfort that drew me to love, compassion, and forgiveness.
My mom isn’t perfect. Far from it. The older I become, the more I find myself doing and becoming several different things at once when it comes to my relationship with her:
I’m growing more and more forgiving and compassionate of her, as I’m beginning to understand the difficult things she had to navigate and decide on as a grownup (where most decisions, more often than not, seem to be the best one at that time).
I’m learning more and more about her as a person—that includes the complex, beautiful, messy, broken, and redeemed parts of her—and not just because she happens to be the person who raised me (which partly explains the mess).
I’m growing more and more impatient of her flaws, but also deeply appreciative and thankful for the strengths she’s transferred onto me.
A passing thought came to mind, as I listened to the rise and fall of her voice:
“I wish I heard this voice as often as I used to. Whether it came to me raised, strained, quiet, sarcastic, or in laughter, I wish I heard all of it.”
I knew the end of our call was near. We had both arrived at that point in the conversation where we knew we had overextended the original agenda of this interaction. As we wrapped it up, I was straining to keep my voice even despite the tears. I was trying to stop my own mom from noticing how hanging up was both relieving, yet also so heartbreaking for me.
My final words to her landed in a quick, awkward, perhaps insincere way; almost like an afterthought to our 44-minute phone call:
“I love you.”
After all, these words weren’t normally said in my family. And just as expected, she said it in the same manner as I did:
“I love you.”
At 11:49 this morning, she messaged me.
“Bought you toilet paper and orange juice mountain maid or something with pulp. Send the delivery over to pick it up any time.”
I was surprised at how she remembered my joke. Another thought: My mom doesn’t know that I preferred real orange juice without the pulp, but that didn’t matter. I thanked her anyway.
Her next message arrived at 4:16 PM. It came with a photo of Golden Oreos, one of my favorite (but hard to find) snacks.
“Look what I got from S&R? Buy 1, take 1. I forgot to include this in your care package.”
My mom isn’t perfect. Far from it. But like any mom, she will always try her best to love me in the way she knows how.