Sunday, May 8, 2011

All About my Mother

Back in the 70's when my family was living in San Juan, my parents were raising three kids:  my two older brothers and me.  Like many moms, mine was the stay-at-home kind:  the cook, the maid, the launderer, the decorator, the gardener, the nurse, and the loving and supporting wife.  She worked very hard to stretch each dollar so that we could attend Catholic school and live in a very decent, and spotlessly clean home.  Thirty years later and now home as a visitor, it dawns on me with painful clarity just how dedicated my mother has been to truly making our lives easier.  So many of her personal pleasures were put on hold so that she could endlessly worry about how much my dad was working, what to cook for us in the evening, and how to guide and discipline the three kids.

Mami, in her 'happy' place

Good thing my mom is a woman of simple pleasures.  That probably kept her sane over all those years.  I remember Sunday drives with all of us packed in the car - days when safety belts were not yet required and us kids would go crazy playing/fighting in the back seat.  We would head to the narrow mountain roads to search for the most exotic plants my mother could think of.  She would always bring with her a small hand shovel and ask my dad to stop the car when a precious specimen was found.  The excitement she showed when she spotted the desired plant was worth the trip.  She brought a good sample of island flora back home with us with every outing; all of it transplanted to her small but growing suburban garden.

There are numerous simple pleasures she showed us as children.  My love for a morning cup of coffee started when I was probably around five years old.  She would leave the bottom of her cup of coffee for me to drink, the part that is just the sugar saturated with that unforgettable taste.  She taught us the tropical version of sledding, using a "yagua" (plantain leaves) to slide down the steep hill at my grandma's.  My nieces Juliana and Mariana now gleefully enjoy a modern version, sitting on a wood board, at my mom's.  She loves to have her grandchildren join her as she waters her beloved plants, often spraying them and turning it into a water game.  She introduced us to all these things yet she often admits that she never really had time to play with us while we were little. She was way too busy. 

Looking back now my mom realizes just how over-worked and stressed out she was while we were growing up.  She had very high standards for her home and she is the type that did not demand enough help from her kids while we went to school.  She’d rather get things done than wait for someone else to have the initiative to do them.  She says she has had it with the cooking and all the dishes she's had to wash.  Even though she will still work her butt off for us when we visit, she's much more relaxed now.  She had her fourth and last child at forty, and by now we are all happily married and out of the house.  Now her devotion is solely to my dad, and second to her grandchildren, whom she baby-sits once in a while and enjoys with the passion once reserved for her search of exotic plants.

During this visit I have been so happy to re-experience the child-like glee in my mom as she asks my dad, both now just beginning their 70's, to slow down so she can look for a dessert rose she saw on the way to the beach.  Later on she asks me to come take a picture of the little birds having a feast on the salt deposits by the beach.  This is a woman who stops any conversation to have us go out to the balcony to see yet another beautiful full moon.  I now understand much better how much she wanted us to have un-complicated and happy lives.  That was her top priority and she slaved for it each day until finally, late in the evening, she’d have a chance to finally sit on rocking chair to relax and read the newspaper.  All of her focused dedication did not make her a very cheerful lady those days.  To me, it is more than a joy to see her so much more relaxed now, not only enjoying the fruits of the labor she realized alongside my dad, but still deeply loving the simple things she always did.

¡Gracias por todo, Mami!

Mother-in-Law, Luz, and Idalia, my mom
 For those not aware, today is Mother’s Day in the United States.  I wrote this post while on vacation in Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago.  I dedicate it to all of our mothers, most of whom exemplified and foreshadowed the dedication we were destined to embrace once we became mothers ourselves.  To my mom, mother-in-law, aunts, and grandmothers (now deceased), may God have a special place reserved for you in Heaven!

1 comment:

Lucy Alonso said...

Enough said :)