Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Things We Inherit

In the backyard of my new apartment, I have a clump of irises growing luxuriantly against the fence. It’s been a warm spring here in Idaho, so already they are thrusting up their buds in long spears. I imagine they’ll bloom within the fortnight.

At this point, the buds are still tightly furled and secretive, so it’s impossible to tell what color the final product will produce. I feel like I inherited a surprise from whatever renter in the past decided to toss some rhizomes in the ground and hope for the best. Irises are actually my favorite flower – I love the extravagance of their enormous blooms, not to mention their incredible shades of blue – so the surprise will be especially exciting for that reason.

In the mornings, I can stand in my kitchen while I drink coffee and watch the flowers, wondering what color they will be.

I was doing this the other day, thinking about Mothers’ Day coming up, and also reflecting on my own personality, which has lately been thrown into stronger relief in my mind, thanks to suddenly living on my own. It occurred to me that I would have never guessed at twelve or thirteen, on the cusp of adolescence, what I’d be like now, fifteen years later. Granted, definitive traits were beginning to make themselves known, but at the time I mostly focused on the anxiety of being the youngest in my class and wondering how to make friends with girls one or two years older than me.

Time passed, of course, and I discovered my real friends (Vasnefy, the Fashionista, Mrs. L., and, most recently, the Phoenix Girl). In relation to them my personality settled and took shape. My various romantic relationships have had their effect, too. The result seems to be a combination of confidence, enthusiasm and determination, although when confronted with other people, a wave of diffidence mutes all of these attributes. I’ve become strangely afraid of crushing others with my admittedly strong personality, so I hold back and guard myself around them, both for fear of hurting them and for fear of being hurt should they dislike my natural self.

When I was younger I often thought that I had only inherited my father’s characteristics.

Recently, however, my brother said to me in passing that of us three children, I especially seemed to have received the best and worst of both parents. So I’ve been reflecting on what has come to me from my mother. The confidence and enthusiasm and determination listed above all are obvious traits from my father, and everyone who is familiar with us both will point out that I resemble him in behavior almost exactly, even while looking far more like my mom.

There are plenty of jokes about middle aged women looking in the mirror one day and realizing they’ve become exactly like their mothers (perhaps to their chagrin). For quite a while I thought that would never happen to me, and perhaps indeed I shall not have that exact experience. However, I have realized that my sympathy for others comes from Mom more than from Dad.

She has an almost infinite capacity for interest in others – both their joys and their sorrows.

Sometimes (because I’m an ungrateful daughter, as all children are a little ungrateful!), I feel wearied by her indefatigable interest. Mom wants the news concerning everyone and their births and deaths and marriages and friendships and babies. We joke about the debriefing everyone in the family must undergo when coming home from an event, since she is so curious about all the attendees and their stories.

However, it’s not just idle curiosity. She remembers everything and next time she sees one of these people about whom she knows a few facts, she’ll run to greet them and discuss their news, whether happy or sad, offering congratulations or condolences as needed. Granted, my interest in others is not so wide-spread or so generous (due perhaps to the diffidence I mentioned above), but I find the same pattern on a smaller scale in myself. Moreover, it has its effect on my writing, too. All writing requires the ability to put yourself into another’s shoes and feel their joys and sorrows in yourself.

I inherited that ability from my mother, and on this Mothers’ Day, I’d like to thank her for that. This tendency in myself has been slowly developing through my young adulthood, and it has surprised me, much like my inherited irises are set to surprise me when they bloom in a few days. No doubt over the next fifteen years, I’ll discover other elements of myself that she passed to me and be surprised and delighted by them as well. I look forward to the process, and I hope my mom will be with me during those years to guide me with her example.

Happy Mothers’ Day to every mother who stops by my blog to read this post!

1 comment:

  1. Somewhere I read that one can inherit genes from seventeen generations back. That's a big pool to draw from :)

    I wasn't able to know much of my maternal mother, since she passed when I was young. But I would like to think that I have more than just facial recognition. And while there wasn't much talk of her when I was growing up - I still think about her, as well as all those who helped to raise me. We are I believe the total sum of our parts, whether genes or experiences.

    Enjoy this time in your life. And continued blessings in your new space.