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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers Day

I want to start this post by addressing the reason why I am choosing to iterate my thoughts on such a medium as this blog. First, I have always felt that my thoughts are somehow more “pure” when I write them down; as if they go through a filter which bi-passes the clumsiness of my tongue. Admittedly, I have never been very good with grammar or punctuation (I just spelt grammar with an –er before Word warned me that no such word existed). This short preface is a sort of warning/ plea for your patience and understanding if you are an English major. Please do not allow the imperfections of my writing to deter from the importance of my message.

As many close to me already know, I am deeply religious. This is one of the many gifts my mother and father passed on to me. There is a peace and internal calming which I find in my faith that I have not been able to replicate in any secular venue. I feel it necessary to mention this aspect of my character before I begin the bulk of my comments, as I am not sure who will be reading this post. I want to be clear as to how the external factors of my life affected the beliefs and ideals which I will share here regarding women and motherhood. I am Christian. I know that blankets so many diverse beliefs, but it suffices for this post.

When I was a boy, my mother used to sing me a Spanish lullaby about little chicks called “Los Pollitos Dicen” (the little chicks say). Although my Spanish is limited and very sloppy I have remembered this song throughout my life. The lyrics go:
Los pollitos dicen pío, pío, pío
cuando tienen hambre, cuando tienen frío.
La gallina busca el maíz y el trigo
Les da la comida y les presta abrigo.
Bajo sus dos alas, acurrucaditos,
hasta el otro dia
duérmen los pollitos
For those who may not speak Spanish or know how to use Google translate, the translation is roughly this:
The little chicks say peep, peep, peep
when they are hungry, when they are too cold to sleep.
The mother hen looks for corn and wheat
she gives them food to eat.
Safe under mama's wings, huddling up,
Sleep the little chicks until the next day.
I did not know the meaning of every word in the song at the time, but my mother’s soothing voice and reassuring smiles comforted me. There is something undeniably sacred about the connection between mother and child. I struggle even now to find words adequate enough to describe the closeness I feel with my mother. I could carry on about how- in the case of biological children- our genes create offspring which look like us. This gives us a sense of familial responsibility and plays on self-preservative complexes drilled into our brains by thousands of years of evolution. These words would fall short at best in describing the above mentioned connection, and at worst they may reduce the meaningful link to simply scientific statistics. After all, I am sure that there were moments when, no matter how much I looked like her, my mother felt a tiny-itsy-bitsy-so-small-you-can-hardly-quantify-it bit of sympathy for those animals which eat their young at the first signs of rebellion.

Far from the awkward picture I might have painted for you above, here are a few of the things my mother taught me:

1. A clean home is a happy home. When I was a boy, I don’t remember seeing my mom take very many breaks. I thought at the time that she must enjoy cleaning and scrubbing and cleaning and washing and cleaning and dusting. After all, that is what she did every day it seemed. Having a place of my own with a family of my own has taught me that this was probably not the case. I do remember certain chores were therapeutic for her. For example, cooking meals for us was always something that helped her to feel good about any situation. Being Hispanic, food was a tradition as much as it was an opportunity to enjoy the company of those you love. Having three rascal boys who would make just about any cleaning job three times as difficult was not easy, I can imagine. Looking back, she never made us feel like we were in the way. Even when we dragged mud into the house, she might at first offer a verbal prayer in Spanish that God would somehow help her with these three rambunctious boys, but then she would help us clean the mess we had made with a smile on her face. I suppose this lesson was two-fold: A clean home is a happy home, but a clean home is not as important as a happy home.

2. Caring for others is always more enjoyable than caring about yourself. It would be impossible to put a number on the amount of bacteria ridden adventures my brothers and I would embark on in the woods of Massachusetts. Needless to say, we were sick often. Not any more so than other kids I suppose- generally we were never dangerously ill- but often. I still remember that I somehow both dreaded and looked forward to being sick. Mostly because my mom is an excellent cook, and when you were sick in her home, you got a full menu to choose from. My favorite was her soups. I am pretty sure if you put my mom on a deserted island and told her to make a soup- she could conjure up one of the best tasting soups you have ever had in your life. Period. She would nurture us back to health in a way that expressed to my little boy self that this woman would do anything in the world for me if she knew it would make me happy. I knew my mother loved because she said it- and her actions cemented its truth.  

I did not learn to care for others by simply having my mom care for me. I learned by her example. When I was in middle school, my grandma (mamacita or abuelita as we would call her) became very ill. As long as I knew her she had been sick due to kidney failure and a host of other related complications. This time though, she had fallen ill to cancer. For over a year, my mom would drive two hours into Boston every weekend to take care of her mother. She would leave Friday night (sometimes we would beg her to stay and have fun with us as we did not understand why she had to go every weekend) and return Sunday afternoon to begin her weekly routine of being a mother and a teacher’s aide all over again. I did not realize at the time the sacrifice that she was making. Her mother eventually lost her battle with cancer. When she did, my mother’s brothers and sisters came to visit us for the first time in western Mass. I still remember them complaining about the drive. My mother just smiled and welcomed them in to rest and eat. I realize now that the hours she spent on the road to care for her mom must have been an easy trade. My mother taught me that God gave us time, but it was not so we could make time for ourselves. It was time for us to be with our families.

3. There are three important things in life; the gospel; your family; your education. One is not more important than the other because they are all connected. My mom taught me how to pray. She taught me my worth as a son of God. She taught me about the atonement of Jesus Christ and that even when I made mistakes I could say sorry and try harder to become better. She taught me that the scriptures could be a source of power and revelation. She taught me all these things by example. Although I have already mentioned several ways my mom emphasized family, there was one other way in which she taught me the importance of this sacred institution. My mom taught me that girls were delicate and beautiful and that I was to- in all ways- respect and cherish them. My mom made it clear to me that if I had a friend who was a girl, or a girlfriend later down the road who told her that I mistreated her- “so help me, I will beat you” (Remember, my mom is 4’9”, still, I was terrified of her when she became angry). The consequence forever hurting the feelings of my future wife were much more severe. She was mostly joking of course, but her threats made it clear to me that I was supposed to protect women- not hurt them. I was supposed to cherish virtue- not abuse it. You better believe my wife has my mother’s number on speed dial- just in case I forget my place and need a good-ol-fashioned-Latino-mom-beating.

I can still remember my mom buying the multiplication flashcards that I learned to hate. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything fun until I went through at least 50 of them a day. I never understood why my mom worked so hard with us at home when I spent a whole day at school learning these things. Both my mother and father did not have the privilege of earning higher degrees of education. They instilled in me a desire to learn and discover new things. My mom taught me that my schooling was the most important thing I could do for my future. “Get an education mijo. You will be happier if you do.” I am finishing my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology in December and I am currently applying for my Masters of Physician Assistant degree. I owe these accomplishments to the ideal my mom instilled in me that service to both your community and your family will be compounded greatly by higher degrees of knowledge.

The next mother I would like to speak of, is the mother of my beautiful daughter Lilian. My wife and companion. My other half. My confidant. My fellow adventurer. My hot-sexy-gorgeous-lady (she will definitely ask me to remove that- to which I will refuse on the basis that to erase the words does not make it untrue so what is the point of erasing the words?). Above all, she is my example and my best of friends.

Here are a few things I have learned from Emily over the (almost 3) years we have been together:

1. Obedience is never gray. I remember when my wife and I would sit in her garage after she drove me around all day (I was poor and had no car) and talk for hours about everything from our faiths to the memories we shared in high school. What first attracted me to her was (besides her beauty) her bull-dog-like obedience to what she knew to be true. I believe my habit of questioning everything and playing the devil’s advocate is her least favorite thing I do. Obedience is a quest to her. It is not something she questions when she knows it is right. This has led her to become successful at everything she attempts. She is a rock and light house. I can set my course to hers and have faith that she is doing the right thing. She has taught me that when you say you will do something, you do it. Not doing it leaves room for doubt, and doubt will never solve problems.

2. Fierce loyalty to one another is essential to a happy marriage. My wife would stand by me even if she knew I was wrong. Not because she is ignorant, but because she knows my weaknesses often better than me. Although she may be devoted to me no matter what, she is also righteously critical of my weaknesses while in private. Not to expose and embarrass, but to lift and edify. She is helping me to become a better man each and every day.

3. Sacrificing for one another is the foundation of love within marriage. I have not found another person as selfless as Emily. She has worked to put me through school for three years at a job that is unappreciative of her God given talents, and for pay that is one of this nation’s more embarrassing features. She has sacrificed time with our daughter in order to keep us financially afloat. She has cried, and stressed, and reached a level of exhaustion I have never known, all in the name of our family. The amount of respect and gratitude I feel for her surpasses that of any other person I have ever known or will know. I feel an enormous amount of debt is owed to this woman who has shown me the strength of a righteous woman. She will most likely deny all of these things too, if you were to confront her with them. Why? Because she does not see these things as a sacrifice. She sees them as her motherly duty. She is humble to the point of embarrassment for any recognition she receives. This compounds in my mind the integrity of her character and the purity of her heart. I can only ever aspire to be in my lifetime what she already has become.

4. Emily has taught me what love is. Love is sticking with your boyfriend even when he responds to your first confession of love with, “are you sure, how do you know?” Love is borrowing a wedding dress, enlisting an army of volunteers, and not going on a honeymoon in an effort to be married to the one you love even if he is a broke college student with a few thousand dollars in debt to his name. Love is not complaining about doing any of that. Love is leaving messages on the mirror or making poster boards with candy on the morning of your husband’s big exams. Love is a hug and a high five no matter what he managed to score on those exams. Love is trying your husband’s dinner creations, even if it is egg-drop-ramen noodles. Love is listening to revelation together. Love is making a family together. Love is a 3 year-and-counting pre-honeymoon. Love is not complaining about a husband that sleep talks and refuses to actually wake up (not on purpose) most nights when Lily needs a diaper change and food. Love is getting three hours of sleep at night, going to a full time job, and coming home with a smile on your face. Love is those nights when you just lay in bed together telling stupid jokes and laughing so hard you can hardly breathe. Love is always looking for ways to save money and buy cheaper- even on vacations. Love is a kiss before leaving no matter what mood you’re in or how early it is. Love is quick apologies and brief contention. Love is moving every June in 100+ degree weather without breaking a sweat. Love is being together…forever.

Too mushy for you? Get over it- it’s my blog. What you might find interesting is that the list could go on for a few more pages without me having to pause and think about what else to write. I married a woman among women. A devoted mother, deserving of the praise of all who know her. I wish I could properly convey the fullness of the beauty that is her ideal, but I am not sure our limited tongues can yet convey such emotion. I love you Emily. The depth of that sentence can be assumed by many but only known by us. Happy mother’s day. I am so blessed to have you in my life. I’m glad that you agreed to share milk with me, it is so much better than sharing with side burns. ;P