As tonight’s insomnia started settling in, all I could smell was the sweet scent of my Banana Republic Rosewood perfume which always makes me think of my mother. It’s one of her favourites, and always reminds me of the time she travelled across the world to see me get admitted to the bar, and then nonchalantly left a bottle of this perfume in our guest room, so that every time I missed her I would smell it and feel like she was close. Poetic as this all sounds, the reason my senses were treated to this luxury is that earlier this evening, Tuna decided it was necessary to pull down my perfectly organised little shelf containing all of my favourite choking hazards and uningestable substances (jewellery and perfumes, and actually, no joke –razors [WHAT WERE THEY DOING IN THERE?!]- she clearly saw that the entire set-up was a health and safety violation so actually, I owe her for bringing this to my attention). She is totally fine, but my Banana Republic perfume is not. The glass bottle shattered everywhere, and its contents spilled across my bedroom floor. I managed to clean it all up but the scent feels like it’s going to linger for a while.
So it got me thinking. About my mother. And how, after becoming a mother myself, I am starting to understand so many more of the mother-daughter dynamics which I previously took for granted.
The dynamic I’m particularly aware of at the moment is the one where I act like an inconsolable toddler whenever I’m with her. Or a moody teenager. Or basically any stage of a child’s life that a parent finds more challenging than others. My dad doesn’t get much of this. It’s all smiles and jokes and laughter with him. I actually remember a Skype conversation, pre-Tuna, but not that long ago, where I spent the first half of the call crying and complaining like a little baby, and then the instant my dad appeared, he started cracking jokes and managed to make me smile. Mama actually commented on this and asked me what she had done to be the lucky recipient of all my grumpiness.
I was never really able to answer her.
Since the first time I left home when I was 18, almost every time I talk to Mama on the phone, I have to cry about something. I have to stress out about something and unload, let her help me process whatever challenge it is that I’m going through. I never really understood it, until now.
A has commented that Tuna puts on her very “best” behaviour when I’m around. I could be out all day long, and A will remark on what a treat she was – simply delightful, cooperative, eating whatever he offered her, consistently smiling and chirpy with minimal whining.
But then, I walk in the door. It’s almost like the kid preferred it if I wasn’t there. Meanwhile, I was eagerly looking forward to being greeted with open arms and a big milk-toothy grin, but instead, it’s whine o’clock.
I realised this parallel very recently. Hold on – my daughter cries and complains as soon as she sees me; I cry and complain as soon as I see/talk to my own mother. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
Perhaps it’s because you know that Mama will always have the patience to listen to your complaining without judgment. She will always have space in her arms for another hug, even if you’re taller than she is and have children of your own. Even if you’re a grown woman, you can default back to being an eight-year-old kid and she will never tell you you’re being immature, unreasonable, and that goshdarnit would you please just act your age? I can be totally irrational and reject any solution to my problem that she tries to offer, and she will calmly and lovingly let me talk through whatever it is that’s troubling me.
The funny thing is, I can be totally fine and not even realise something is bothering me, and then I’ll hear that familiar FaceTime ringtone, see that it’s “Mama calling” and the minute I hear her voice on the other end, it’s like my brain quickly searches the archives for any unprocessed issues that need to be untangled.
(*Disclaimer: this by no means undermines the magical effect my father has on me – but truth be told, I just can’t help but smile when the guy’s around. I remember being a moody 12-year old and desperately trying to maintain my “mood of the moment” but finding it nearly impossible around him. It really messed up the rep I was trying to maintain – “guys I’m WALLOWING, let me wallow!” My sisters found all of this highly entertaining.)
So now, when Tuna does the same thing to me, I see it a little differently. I’m okay with being her go-to person when she wants to be unfiltered Tuna. If it means that she feels as comfortable, safe and loved with me as I do with my own mother, then you know what, I can take it.
Except maybe occasionally you could act a little ecstatic when I come home after leaving you with your dad for a few hours. That would be nice.