Friday, March 19, 2010

My Mother

Here's my childhood story with my mother:

My mother, a lovely elegant friendly and smart lady, was a fairly strict young woman in her twenties and thirties, she had no choice but to while raising four kids back to back on foreign soil, starting at age 21 and getting her work done by age 27. She took a stand after her youngest and said to my father that her job of delivering babies and giving birth to those tiny creatures was over, so if he wanted more kids, he could go elsewhere. Well, that didn't work well for dad since he was Catholic, our very neighbors were able to marry four women and he couldn't do that, how unfair life can be sometimes! Well, after we grew up a little, I'm sure he changed his mind about having more of us, I mean think about it for a second, kids are adorable when they're laughing and while they're sleeping, sure before they walk, but once they walk (and mind you four of them), your place loses that adjective known as "home", yet you wouldn't have it any other way, would you!

While dad was busy at work, Mom had to deal with raising all four of us. She was smart enough to raise us in a way that allowed her to have time for herself and dad. She was dedicated to her family, still is, and had it under control. She made sure that she asked all four of us (here starts the sarcasm) what kind of Sandwiches we preferred to take to school for snacks, or if we preferred a pocket money to buy whatever we felt like, what kind of lunch we would like to have when we come back home, how would we feel about playing in the train station yard till sunset, explained the mentality behind not playing in the streets every evening, why we should wash our feet up to our knees after coming back up to our apartment before entering our bedrooms or sitting on the furniture. She discussed with us the benefit of education and asked us to select the subject that we were most passionate about to spare some of her own time to develop that in us and see where it goes. She then explained to us the middle eastern mentality behind the Macho man, the head of the family who goes to work first thing in the morning and comes back at night when we're almost in bed, why displaying emotions was considered a weakness. And of course, she insisted on taking our approval for the way we were going to spend the summer vacation, the places we were going to visit, the kind of restaurants and food we were going to explore. The best part is that if we were not in agreement, or if we had mixed feelings about a certain thing, she would say "let's sit down and talk about it" or if we're not ready to talk she would say "You know what to do when you're ready to discuss this, for now I understand you need some space". It was all perfect until I woke up hearing her, screaming her heart out about my shoes being on the floor while she was mopping, with her hair up and tight she looked like a principle at school or a nun at a catholic church, she was a cleaning freak, and really really disciplined (something she sure knew how to pass on to us). I woke up and picked up my shoes off of the floor immediately. I hated Mondays and Thursdays, the days she had the deep cleaning of our five bedroom apartment, all by herself, then later on with the help of my sisters. Her smile became estranged on those two days, oh boy, dare you say something like “I don’t like artichoke for lunch” you were going to eat it and say something like ” woooohoooo Artichoke and Rice! Ymmmmmmmmmmy”

So yeah, I make fun of the past and I cherish the past so much, mom had it her way or the highway, we had no choice but to obey her rules, and those were many, like “this is lunch, deal with it or stay with no food, we are going there and you’re coming with us, that’s final, God help you if I learn from your siblings that you threw away your sandwich in the trash (the convenience of going to school with your siblings) it is what it is, you do it your way when you live on your own, oh really! that’s too bad, go to your room, or, what kind of kids are you, have mercy on me!!!! huh?”. She also said things like “how many times do I have to tell you that you need to make your bed before you take off", "aren’t ashamed of the way your drawers look like", "of course you can’t find it, look how messy your closet is” and part of that, extended to our friends who had a kick out of it “I said no phone calls from 2 to 4 pm, we take naps at that time", "let your friends experiment at their own apartments before they give you their wise advices”. Relatives never suffered from our visits, dad was too embarrassed to drag four children with him into his social activities so he simply never did, and mom had us sit next to her on the couch (when we fitted), and with one look from her in case we got loud, we froze on that couch and caused no damage to any one we visited. Still, mom had her sarcastic sense of humor; she would make fun of us and crack us up at the same time. Looking back, I have nothing but respect and admiration for what she's done and how she did it at such a young age on.

When dad was unemployed for years, mom never compromised a thing, she worked even harder and never complained, she learned, out of the blue, how to sew, how to knit, how to embroider, she mastered them and made sure that no Christmas or Easter goes by without her children wearing new clothes. She managed to find affordable markets and shopped far away from home sometimes to make sure that the most delicious food is served on our tables (Even with Artichoke, she would always say something like “try it again, now that you’re older, your taste and preferences change”, never got tired of that line)

The truth is, all four of us adore mom, she was our queen and still is, yes she had no opportunity to get high education at school (it wasn’t much of a fashion in her days) and yes all four of us were blessed to go to schools and universities, however till today we go to her with questions knowing how authentic her life experience is and how loving and giving she is. Maybe she wouldn’t get the answer to 9 x 9 immediately but she would tell us what to do when one of our kids is sick, how to clean something without damaging it, how to budget our monthly expenses, how important drinking green tea and working out is….etc

In two days we celebrate Mother’s day in the middle east, March 21st is officially the first day of the spring and what a better way to celebrate that starting with a day of appreciation to all mothers. My mother, all the respect to her, found a system that worked, a strict system when we were kids, a friendlier approach when we got older, and being best friend with us now. Happy mother’s day to all mothers, thank you for declaring the beginning of Spring, and to my mother, we love you so much, always have, always will, God bless you