Today especially — my first Mother’s Day — I have been thinking about my Ama. All the little memories that I have of her. All the things that my mother has told me. The small details that paint a larger picture. The stories that become legend.
You will hear about my tiny hands reaching for her as she boarded a plane back to Taiwan. The way we traded “wo ai ni”s over crackly long-distance phone calls. The disappointment on her face when I didn’t do as she asked. The crinkle of her eyes, and the softness of her cheeks.
I don’t really pray, but when I was pregnant with you, I spoke to my Ama a lot. She was a midwife for many years, and in my broken Mandarin, I asked her to help me through this, to keep you safe. I believe that she heard me. I believe that her spirit walked with ours.
Today I have also been thinking about your Ama. Everything she has done and continues to do for me, and now for you too. All the memories you will have of her. All the stories I will tell.
You will hear about her hand squeezing mine like Morse code, and me repeating the pattern back. The time she she tried to make Velveeta mac and cheese, but substituted mayonnaise for sour cream. Her exceedingly high expectations, and her unwavering support for my writing. Her love of Dairy Queen, Ralph Lauren clothing, and baby oil. Her laugh. Her art.
Part of the reason I feel that my Ama was watching over us is that your Ama happened to be visiting when I went into labor with you. Your father was away on a business trip, so without her there, I would have been alone for most of it. Instead, I had her by my side the whole time. She held my hand and fed me ice chips. She was there when you were born, and she wasn’t even mad that you stole her birthday. She said that you were beautiful.
And of course, I have been thinking about what you might one day tell your children about me. It’s hard for me to imagine you fully grown, me old and gray. But I look forward to it. I look forward to everything with you, the good and the bad. I hope you’ll have many fond memories and interesting stories of me. I’ve already got so many of you.
And even though I taught my daughter the opposite, still she came out the same way! Maybe it is because she was born to me and she was born a girl. And I was born to my mother and I was born a girl. All of us are like stairs, one step after another, going up and down, but all going the same way.
— The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
5 responses to “Mothers and daughters”
I always advise people (not that they ask, but one of the privileges of age is handing out unsolicited advice :-) ) not to take time with grandparents, or even parents, for granted.
(I’m speaking of the good, helpful type of grandparents, not the creepy, horrible ones.)
Three of my four grandparents died before I was born, and the fourth had stopped talking much by then, so I had very little of the grandparent experience.
(I did give my grandfathers cameo roles in my second novel, though. :-) )
I too had very little grandparent experience. One had passed away before I was born, and the others lived far away. I didn’t realize that wasn’t the norm until I was much older.
I felt very fortunate to spend Mother’s Day with my daughter, my mother, and my grandmother. I do see our traits and our expressions passed down and like you, I wonder what my daughter will say to (hopefully!) her daughter about all of us someday.