“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
– Mitch Albom
On this very special day (aka Mother’s Day), we’re celebrating mothers and the many things they do for us. Words would never suffice to show just how much they endure for their children. My mother was no different; and yet she is special in her own way. A simple woman who turns fierce when it comes to her children, or her family, she has grown from being my mother to one of my accomplices. No, chuck that, I think, because of her childlike innocence, she has always been a friend to me.
One of my fondest childhood memories is going shopping with her. I still remember how she used to get more excited about knick-knacks, wanting to always buy more for me than herself, then going all starry-eyed when I tried it out.
I guess I owe my love for shopping (read thrift and street shopping) to the genes she passed on to me.
But there are other traits and habits which aren’t so obvious; which she passed on by example; which make me the person I am today. I know my personality isn’t perfect, but whatever good parts I do have, it’s majorly thanks to this woman. So, here’s me telling about some of the good bits about myself, that was passed on to me by my mother, albeit, probably, not consciously.
1. Trusting my instincts more than my intelligence
I’m a very intuitive person. I am almost always able to (correctly) gauge people’s intentions. How did I become so? Let me share an incident from my growing up years. My mother has been a teacher for over three decades and has worked at the same school for 25 years. In her line of work, she must have come interacted with thousands of people, right from co-workers to parents, and of course, children of all ages. She has shared numerous anecdotes with us about her classroom and staffroom shenanigans. I have seen her in action on more than one occasion too. I was attending her school annual day function one year when she told me something I’ll never forget. My mother was a backstage coordinator, helping the children get ready and trying to maintain discipline in the greenrooms. A girl (let us call her X), who was about eleven years old, was a part of more than one performance. Hence, X had to change from one outfit to the next, quite quickly. It was probably because of this that X was creating a ruckus backstage, demanding that everyone give her space. Whatever the case, it was pretty obvious that X, even at such a tender age, had a holier than thou attitude about her. She even scoffed at my mother for putting her in her place and asking her to maintain silence.
Two of X’s performances were back to back. By this time, everyone in the greenroom was frustrated with her. When X came back after her performance, she only had a maximum of five minutes to change and go back on stage for the next one.
It just so happened that her costume was torn. It was nothing major and she could still have worn it without anyone noticing the tear. But my mother immediately sensed a drama enfolding…”
Without giving X a chance to blame anyone, my mother asked her to shut up and whispered some instructions to another student who rushed to the adjoining room. They came back in a few moments and handed X another costume. Of course, having nothing to throw a tantrum about now, X quickly went on stage for her performance.
I looked at my mother questioningly and with admiration (side note: I was thirteen or fourteen at the time). She knew I wouldn’t give it a rest so as a way of explanation, she merely said, “Oh, these kids think they’re smarter than us teachers because they’re multitalented and whatnot. I was aware of that defect in her costume and had asked for an extra pair long back. I deliberately kept it in another room so X could be kept in line when the time came to show her who is the boss.”
I was stumped. Needless to say that after that particular performance, X behaved quite politely; not just with my mother, but with all the other children backstage too. They’d all quite literally, saved her neck. I also know through my mother and my own grapevine, that X never (again) got her knickers in a twist (pun absolutely intended), especially when my mother was around.
This was just one incident where I saw my mother thinking on her toes and coming up with quick-fix solutions that would help in the long run. As I grew up and have become more and more independent, I realized why I am able to adjust to new people and surroundings so easily. It is because of my ability to trust my instincts, and always, relying on them more than my intelligence. I am sure this became a habit through observing my mother and seeing how she managed everything so well because of her intuitive mind.
2. Eating as much as my hunger demands without keeping count of units and calories consumed
We have this habit, at least in the Indian culture where we’re asked before serving meals, “How many chapatis/rotis (Indian flatbread) will you have?” These rotis are prepared to keep the count of each individual from the family or guests in mind. I had observed that in households other than ours, the rotis were roasted/baked and kept in a casserole before the meals, and then everyone would sit down for the meal together. This wasn’t the case in our home. My mother would roast the bread (roti or chapati) when we sat down and serve them to us straight from the stove. Of course, we enjoyed relishing the rotis hot and fresh. But it also irritated me and to date it does, because I would always want her to have meals with us. However, because of this practice of hers, she would end up having meals after us.
Wanting to understand why she did this, I had, as a child, asked her about it. Her answer made me change my eating habits forever. You see, as a child, I used to spend my holidays and vacations at my cousins’ place a lot. Of course, they used to come and stay over at our place too. All of these children always had a fixed count of rotis/chapatis that they would eat. Like 2 rotis or 4 rotis, et al. When I stayed at their place, I’d sometimes want more than 2-3 rotis, but since the rotis were already prepared, I’d not say anything. At our place, my mother would ask the cousins, “Do you want more rotis?” and most of my cousins would respond, “But I already had 2 rotis.” Then my mother would smile and respond,
Don’t count the number of rotis, dear. If you’re still hungry, you can have as many as you want till your hunger is abated.”
Her answer used to baffle me. But when I asked her about her practice, I understood it quite well. “I do it for my benefit as well as for others. You see, I don’t want anyone to feel or say they wanted more only if there was some more to eat. But it is also because I don’t want to get up in between having my meal and prepare an extra roti or two if someone asks for it.”
I guess it is because of this that I still eat as per my stomach’s demands; albeit in proportionate amounts.
3. Being friendly with everyone but remembering that not everyone is my friend
My mother may be 60+ in age, but she still has friends who are even younger than me. No, let me rephrase that. My mother is friendly with people her age and even those less than half her age. I have seen her smile and talk politely to each member of her staff, irrespective of their age, gender, and position. But I have also observed that went it comes to sharing her personal life and problems, she doesn’t go beyond 3-4 people.
This, out of all her habits, had shaped my personality in a huge way. Of course, the experiences of betrayal by people I trusted the most, helped too. But yes, though I may talk nicely to everyone, there are only a few who know the not-so-nice bits about my life and my personality. Because my mother has taught me by example the difference between being friendly and being a friend.
So this one goes to the woman who played a huge role in making me who and what I am today. Thank you, dear mother, for helping me become a better person.
“For showing me how to become better, not by words, but by being the kind of person I grew up admiring, and later, emulating. “
Here’s to all the mothers reading this. You’re loved and appreciated. Thanks for everything that you do to make this world and our lives, a little better.
What are some habits that your mother has passed on to you?
Thank you for reading.