Tomorrow is my mother's birthday, so I figured that I'd devote this particular entry to her. She's all the way in Germany, as she moved there when she divorced my father, so chances are pretty slim that I'll see her. I was going to send her one of those cheesy e-cards, but I figured that this might be a nice surprise as she's a regular reader of my blog. (In fact, we've had a few heated exchanges - mostly on the MySpace version - as a result.)
My mom is thirty years and two weeks older than me. She was born two years before the end of World War II, so she knows a thing or two about what war can do to a country. She married for the first time when she was seventeen and she had her first child when she was nineteen. (I think that I'm getting my numbers correct here.) She divorced her first husband and met my father when he was stationed in Germany for the army. Not long after that, she came to the United States, hardly knowing any English, and married my father. Of course, this is the sort of thing where if I had a daughter who was going to do something similar, I'd tell her that she was crazy and that I was going to chain her to the floor until she wised up. Thankfully, my grandfather did no such thing, because then I wouldn't exactly be here.
Of course, she eventually caught on to that whole speaking English craze that was sweeping America, and by the time she had me, she hardly spoke any German to me (at least in comparison with my older sister).
Anybody who knows my mother realizes that we're quite different. For one, she's extremely extroverted. Last New Year's, she asked me what my plan was. When I told her that I didn't have a plan, she told me that she used to "like to party" on New Year's. I, of course, wasn't partying by design, as I really can't stand parties. Still, I realize that it's a good thing that my mother was so extroverted, as I inherited her basic social skills. That's why people are genuinely surprised to find out that I'm an introvert - I sometimes wear the mask of somebody who actually enjoys human interaction. (I'm exagerating, but you know what I mean.)
She's also a theist. I suppose that I could call her a Christian, but she has her own unique mish-mash of beliefs that hardly makes her the conventional Christian. She seems to be holding on to some hope that I'll one day be a believer again. Maybe she'll get her wish - I like to keep all possibilities open. I will say though that I'm glad that she exposed me to a lot of religious stories when I was growing up. The older I got, the more I realized that many so-called believers were extremeley Biblically illiterate. I think that my mother shares my love for stories in general, and obviously Bible stories would be emphasized. So, that's definitely something that I got for her and am grateful for. After all, if I didn't have such an appreciating for the art of storytelling, I don't think I'd be able to do my job.
Growing up, she played a lot of classical music - including opera. I still can't quite seem to get into opera, but I do occasionally play some Beethoven on my MP3 player while walking my dog. That's not so much what's important though. My mom gave me an appreciation for "high art". She made me realize that there's some stuff out there that might not be as catchy and instatly accessible, but those sorts of things become much more satisfying in the long run. For me, it might not have led to a love for classical music, but there are other things that I can appreciate as an adult - like classic films and Shakespeare - that many people my age still don't get.
Of course, I've also inherited many of her idiosynrasies - like an obsessive need to make sure that I've gone to the bathroom so I won't have to go later. I don't have bladder problems, but I try to go number one at every opportunity because I'm afraid that I'll be stuck having to go really bad later on. She's to blame for that one. She also is hyper self-critical. If I tell her something about her parenting that I didn't care for, she interprets it as me saying, "You were as bad as Cronus was when he swallowed his children!" No doubt I'll be the same way. I can have twenty students tell me that they love my class, but one kid tells me it's boring and I feel like a huge failure.
At least I recognize that this is something that's part of my nature, and I've gotten pretty good at overriding it and focusing on the positive. Hopefully all the good stuff about her in this entry will be enough for her to focus on the positive.
Have a happy birthday, Mom. I love you.