Category: parents

if the world should fall apart, hold on to what you know…

All the stars are out tonight it feels as though I might
Make some sense out of this madness, will it turn out right?

I finished reading The Joy Luck Club, which I had to read for my Culture and Society English exam on Thursday. I didn’t expect to like it - the reason I don’t take more English classes is that I have a hard time enjoying books I have to read, especially when I usually tend to leave them to the last possible minute (I’d like to say due to the time demands of journalism during the year - but the truth is that I would probably procrastinate anyway).

But I did.

It made me think. About women and their mothers. It’s hard for me to see my parents as people of their own right, with a past and a future and even a present that isn’t all about me. This selfish idea, I have realized, is a priceless gift my parents gave me - to make me feel like I was their whole life.

Daughters and their mothers, particularly, are difficult. The book was about how we all go through life thinking our mothers are ruining our lives, or are the bane of our otherwise ordinary lives… but we don’t realize how much we are a part of them, and they of us. That the things we see in them that we may not like are likely projections of what we see in ourselves that we don’t like. And every mother tries to fix her own mistakes for her daughter. It was very interesting.

It made me think about my parents. Another question in the book, repeatedly, is “What’s inside of me?” and one woman tells her daughter about what parts of each of her parents she has. And I was trying to think of what parts of me my parents have given me.

I am the daughter of a woman who was one of the first in her family to graduate from university. A woman who became a nurse because she wanted to care for people. A woman who cares far too much about everyone and everything - a gift and a curse which she passed on to me. But a blessing, in a mother, because I grew up always knowing that I was loved - that I mattered more than anything. I am so proud of my mother and her choices in life. She has worked hard her entire life. She has risen through the ranks of the hospital, and is now the nurse educator of medicine. She is the most honest person I have ever met. Given a food budget of $60 a day on her work trip last week, she told them she didn’t need it. That she only used $40 a day. Because she felt like she’d be cheating them out of $100. My mother is someone who won’t spend a cent on herself, but will turn around and give me $100 to buy new jeans, just because I want them. My mother gets excited over paying $1.25 for a giant bag of M&Ms.

I am also the daughter of a man who fought his whole life for every scrap of what he achieved. My sister and I jokingly call it the Montgomery Luck - almost nothing falls into our laps and we learn to fight hard for what we want. But I’d like to call it the Montgomery Perseverance. My father, who didn’t even technically graduate from high school, remains one of the smartest people I have ever met. He is completely competant in everything he does. He has this hilarious blunt manner in which he can tell someone they’re being an idiot and get away with it. My father has worked so hard his whole life. And never harder than this year, to keep himself and everything together when his life’s work - his store - fell apart. I’m so proud of him for being strong and being determined. And for the success of 25 years. And not despite the failure at the end, but because of it. Because I know he’s going to come out the other side.

Both of my parents had difficult pasts. Honestly, I don’t even know half of it. But they managed to get through it all and raise my sister and I pretty descently, as far as I can tell.

From my parents I got my sense of pride and respect. They raised me to be myself - and to be firm in what I know, to acknowledge what I don’t know. To never let anyone control my life but me. I got my ability to care with everything in me, even if sometimes it proves to be too much. I got my love of knowledge and learning. I got my stubborness. My “scrapiness”, as my sister would say, and my perseverance. I got fire, the fight to protect everything I love like a tigress. I got my giggle and quick blush from my mother. I got my eyes and how they see the world from my father.

So I guess that’s what’s in me.