Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mothers and Daughters

Much has been written about mothers and daughters but I think maturity plays a big part in our growth with this special and often times volatile relationships.  I now understand more and more about my relationship with my mother and even my daughter as I get older. I felt the need to say more for two reasons: Yesterday I met two women while  out eating with my daughter in Westwood and we started to chat about various things. At one point we were discussing that there were only two months of the year where there was no holiday to celebrate.  Well one of these ladies mentioned May, immediately after the other had mentioned that in June there was Father’s Day. When I said Mother’s Day was in May, and even if she wasn’t a mother she had a mother so she should never forget that holiday.  She then said that she didn’t  have much to celebrate there.She began to  briefly explain why she felt this way and how she can see the love between myself and my daughter.  Yes it is true that my daughter and I have a great relationship and we love each other, but more importantly we respect and even like each other. I went on to say that my mother and I didn’t have the kind of relationship that I have with my daughter, my mother was a good parent, and I now realize that she has loved me all along, even when I didn’t think that she did. The second reason is that I had a dream about someone that has never liked me since I was a teenager, and her cousin happens to be a close friend of mine.  In the dream, the woman’s adult daughter was in tears because every time she is around her mother she is brought to tears, and my friend was telling me this.  The daughter went on to tell me about all of the things she has accomplished in her 24 years, and that she was also marrying a young guy that was also quite accomplished, but her mother could and did always make her feel bad about herself.  So I started to talk to her about some of the same things in this dream, that I had talked to the two ladies in Westwood about earlier that day. It has always been said, that we start to understand our mothers more when we become mothers ourselves, but in my case I didn’t really understand my mother until I got married.  At that point I stopped seeing her as just my mother and all that I expected from her and all I expected her to be. I started to see her as a woman. That is when the light went off. I started to see her as another woman like myself that had to navigate things with all of the emotion and hormones raging inside.I realized then, that a person can only give you as good as they got.  They can only give what they know, because they too are human with all the shortcomings as anyone else.Hence, why dysfunction is passed down from generation to generation.  We try to give our children something better than what we have had, and because we didn’t really have it ,we don’t know how to give it, so therefore, we improvise and do the best that we can. Often times when we are little girls, we dream of what we want our own families to look like, and that is usually composed of the things we believe we missed out on, so if we are smart we try to change the pattern.  This is what my mother did and this is also what I did. I was an only child and both of my parents came from divorced families, and they are still married after 50 years; something that they both agreed  they didn’t want to happen in their family.  My parents sent me to the best schools in my hometown and sent me to great college, provided me with a better house than they grew up in, as well as every material possession imaginable. They paid for me to be involved in everything from pageants to debutante balls. These were all the things that they didn’t have growing up. They were African American, growing up in the South during the 50’s and 60’s.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What is his Story? What was his life 20 years ago?

I often ask myself these questions when I see people like this gentlemen. He obviously has a story and something to say. What is it? Have anyone of us ever stopped to ask? I want to ask at times, but am afraid of what I going to hear. I am afraid that I am going to hear how he was once, what we would consider, a productive citizen and fell on bad luck, because of mental illness, physical illness, or merely lost of income, and even worst, lost of hope. Then there is another fear and that is that he would be angry and say or do something to me that would hurt my feelings or worst hurt my person. I do know that the latter is not what I would usually get, and it is not the greatest fear. We don't want to ask because we don't want to care, so as not to feel even more helpless in this massive problem called "Homelessness" than we feel already. So at most we give them money, feed them, talk to them for awhile, or just give them a smile and go on with our lives. I know I often feel very bad when faced with these situations because I know that I am not but a heart beat away from being in his shoes. All of these fears are ways we justify doing nothing, and I must admit that I am included in this bunch. I wish that I was not but I am. How do I move away from the excuses and move toward some sort of action. As I was sitting outside of California Pizza Kitchen eating with my daughter, this gentleman passed by our outside table and looked right at me, that is when I noticed that his left eye was cloudy, but he was looking right at me. I smiled at him and said hello, and he greeted me in such respectful and warm way. At that moment my thoughts of pity turned into respect. Respect for him as a man, as my brother, that has endured something heavy in his life. What could that be? This reminds me of my most recent visit to Wal-Mart a few days later and the cashier was a mature gentleman. The total of my bill was $19.68, and without any real thought, I blurted out, "that was a good year", like I would know, because I was only seven years old. The cashier said "not for me", and I asked him why not, and he said, "I was in Vietnam." I immediately felt terrible for making the comment, but I came back with, "Thank God that you lived to tell about it." He may not feel that way either, because I have no idea what he has suffered and may still suffer from being in that war. This may not have effected me as much before, but now that I am living through the times of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and am mature enough to understand the pain and politics involved, I see things a bit different. When I had this short exchange with the Wal-Mart cashier, the gentleman in the above photos came to mind, because I don't know his story and I do know that there are a great deal of Vietnam veterans living on the streets here in Los Angeles. How do you feel when you are faced with the same things? What do you do? What would you like to do?