Wednesday September 12, 2012
My parents in me
By ALICE FERNANDEZ
I AM definitely turning into my mother in more ways than I dare confess, character-wise at least. In the looks department, I’m most certainly my father’s daughter.
When I was younger, I used to be terrified of this ever happening to me. I have grown up since, because the idea of turning into one or both of my parents actually feels comfortable, inevitable, amusing and altogether interesting. I am consoled, I think, by this triumph of genetics despite everything: my parents are there in the biological code and they’re coming to claim me.
It is scientifically proven that “there is no escaping mum” – wherever you go, you take her with you. Her little voice inside your head is called a maternal introjet – which includes her values, traits, attitudes habits and outlook.
There are some ways in which I will, fortunately, never emulate my mother because of genetic good luck. But I have embraced her kindness and honesty, and her loving and God-fearing ways. My mother was a truly lovely human being who taught me to be kind and respectful, and not to harm anyone by cruel words and actions. She believed in the maxim that what goes around comes around.
Although I share my mother’s propensity for anxiety and can be a worry-wart like her, I deal with it much more holistically and effectively simply because in this day and age we have better tools to work with.
Together with her stellar ways, I seem to be acquiring her annoying habits which we used to tease her about. One of the things which really got my goat as a teenager was her penchant for going around the house turning things off – lights, the radio, air-conditioning and TV, even if we had just left the room to get a glass of water from the kitchen!
Now I find myself doing the same thing with my husband who simply loves switching on every conceivable electrical equipment when he enters a room, without remembering to switch them off. When I hear myself complaining, I realise how much I am like my mother.
Like her, I scrape every last dollop out of jam jars and squeeze the last drop from shampoo bottles. Sometimes I catch myself using the very words she would have used to say something, or cooking something exactly the way she does. When that happens, it always makes me smile and I feel happy because I feel her presence even though she isn’t around any longer.
To some extent, being “like my mother” is in some ways just becoming the person I always was but thought I was not allowed to be. My mother is a pretty awesome person to be.
My father was smart, wise, kind, funny and extremely generous, to a fault at times. Many a time, our house was the “refuge” for relatives and friends who were undergoing hard times.
I don’t know how he did it financially, as he was the sole-breadwinner with a large family of his own, but somehow we managed.
From my father I have learned to take life easy, to laugh more and stay happy. Most of all, he taught us that putting yourself out there to help others whenever and wherever possible is one of the key components of happiness.
I know this has allowed others to take advantage of me from time to time, but I also know it has brought me some of the most unbelievable feelings of self-worth as well.
My father was original and unconventional in the most inspiring sense. He was a jack-of-all-trades – a qualified tailor by profession (we were the best dressed kids around) and an avid gardener (our house and garden were filled with plants and vegetables).
He taught us how to appreciate nature and showed us how to grow and nurture plants. We had a vegetable garden and a chicken coup in our backyard which gave us endless hours of fun.
He liked to make and fix things and thought that good enough was good enough. I remember all the times he tried so valiantly to teach us simple home repairs. which all but flew over my head. But my sisters and I definitely have his green fingers and creative talents. Till today we are able to sew our own clothes if need be and we all have lovely gardens, too.
In this age of endless modernisation and progression, “turning into your parents” is seen as retrogressive. A step back to a time when men were stern, broad and short-haired and smelt of carbolic soap and brilliantine, and women were sweet-tempered and tied to their aprons, and smelt of food and talcum powder.
We are supposed to want to move on from our parents. To live somewhere far away from them and better, and be richer, more sophisticated, more widely travelled, and more liberal in our thinking.
To be seen to be merely turning into them is often viewed as a failure.
But I see it as a wholly positive thing. I have come to develop a profound appreciation for the job my parents did raising us. I think most parents do the best they can with the lessons given by their parents and thus the cycle keeps on turning.
Perhaps transforming into the people who gave us life isn’t always quite as awful as so many people make it out to be. I have totally and lovingly embraced the fact that I have metamorphosed into my parents.