May 9, 2008

Chalk & Cheese.

Although I would never admit it, my mother is always right. No let me change that to 'often right' because otherwise I am setting myself up for trouble.

We are as different as chalk and cheese. She always practical and I more with my head in the clouds, looking down to see my mama with a firm grip on my ankles preventing me from floating too far away from reality.

'What your eyes can see, your hands can make' she would say, as she made a tent for 4 people so that we could go camping.

My mother is precise, I am far more slapdash.

She taught me to be prudent but not afraid, to wear flip-flops in hotels, not to sit on unfamiliar toilet seats, to pack light, to be aware of what is going on around me and to take care of my money, but she also taught me to enjoy the freedom of seeing new places and meeting new people.

'I want to email you, show me how', and she mastered the computer in her late 70's when I moved to the U.S.

She taught me that it's okay to relax on Sunday mornings in my pyjamas, and that good books should be a regular pleasure. She taught me how to crochet, knit, embroider, sew and re-use things that others just throw away.

'Grandma Moses did it, so it's not impossible' and off she went to drawing and painting classes at 74.

She taught me never to let her cut my hair. She could be ruthless with my bangs. She taught me that jealousy is not worthwhile because you are not going to get something by being jealous. That most tears are tears of self-pity and to dry them and move on. That change in life is inevitable, so accept change and make the best of it. Try something new, you might like it.

'Tomorrow everything can be different', she often says and so true. Everything looks different when it has settled for a while and I add my own wisdom, 'things look different after you have eaten'.

She taught me to make great soup, and that a house without plants and flowers looks like you will be moving out soon. I would never know how to make a fire outdoors, if my mother had not shown me. She showed me too, what it means to be business-savvy and that a woman can be an entrepreneur too.

Being chalk and cheese, we do not always see eye to eye and a couple of years ago when visiting my mother, we decided to take a road trip for a week or so. This particular day we were tired and my mother was already finished eating after the first course, which turned out to be a complete meal for her. It upset her that she would have to return the second plate untouched and was definitely not happy about this. We sat in silence for a while each contemplating where else one could be but here, when my mother took a sip from her mineral water.

Now I need to tell you that in Holland they often serve mineral water in very high and slim glasses.

As my mother put down her glass, the suction in the glass cause the water to drop back suddenly and an enormous drop of water erupted out of the glass and into her eye. For a second she stared at me with one eye closed and the other bright blue, twinkling with amazed mirth and then we both collapsed in a fit of the giggles. We could not stop. Every time we looked at each other we would start again and even a semblance of composure was impossible. After a while the chef peeked out of the kitchen and smiled while my mother and I doubled up again, with tears running down our cheeks, laughing helplessly.

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