As you may recall, our youngest daughter is in Thailand with the Peace Corps. She’ll be there another two years. So as the family gathered yesterday for a Mother’s Day cookout, she couldn’t be with us physically. But she posted this on her blog:
I love this time of year. Although nothing’s really changing on this side of the planet, my southern blood can feel the dogwoods bloom and the Atlantic Ocean warming up begging me to dive in. It’s when my South Carolina soul is set free — those first few Charleston summer nights spent riding my bike through the cobblestones of the Battery, down alleyways like magic gardens, past beautiful long pastel porches where belles once kissed their beaus by the flickering light of oil lamps.
I’m sure it’s getting to be the perfect weather for a backyard barbeque — which is exactly what I’m missing out on today as my family gathers to celebrate Mother’s Day.
While I wish I could be there, my service in the Peace Corps is a daily reminder to me of my mother’s influence. I often think, as I find myself in shocking situations, how would my mother handle this? And the answer is always the same — graciously, and with style. My mother would smile and calmly treat any human she came into contact with, with the same dignity and respect as the next person, no matter their approach or appearance. I learned from witnessing my mother’s consistent interactions as a social worker and active volunteer that all people deserve equal attention.
I feel that my parents, particularly the long hours I spent alone with my mother as her last baby, are largely responsible for any humanitarian tendencies I may possess. As I dug for grubs at her feet in our backyard organic garden, I learned that the easy way is not always the right way, i.e., cloth diapers for five children is better than polluting the planet with disposable diapers for five children, dryers are unnecessary when you have a sunny sky, and that your recycling and composting piles should always outweigh your trash.
My mother taught me a sense of social responsibility, but what’s more is she taught me how to live. She showed me by example the importance of prioritizing and maintaining a positive outlook. When she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, she fought it so gracefully that I never questioned her survival. A steel magnolia if you ever saw one.
I’ve come a long way from my childhood, which I spent totally preoccupied with my mother’s activities and whereabouts. Sure, all children are concerned with their #1 caretaker’s well-being, but my interest was border-line stalkerish. Maybe I was just spoiled, but I couldn’t stand for her to be out of my sight for a minute, and I needed constant validation of my status as the baby. I still do. Some things you never grow out of. While I have some minor personal goals for my life, the one over-arching theme is to make my mother proud. At the end of the day that’s what I really care about. That’s what would make me happy. I know in order to do this I must try to live selflessly as she does, not missing an opportunity to make my life worthwhile. This doesn’t come as naturally to me, but I am trying.
When I was little, I would stare at my mother’s face and marvel at her beauty. Now I’m wise enough to marvel at her strength. Each day I spend in Thailand is a test — a beautiful, delicious, sweaty test filled with smiles and laughter, but a test nonetheless. One that forces me to channel my mother from the other side of the world.
I wish all the mamas a happy Mother’s Day and I miss you from Thailand!