Friday, January 20, 2012

The list

There is one activity that I really like to do with Angelica. I have always read to her, since she was a baby. And lest it sound like I'm bragging about that, let me just say that I started reading to her at such a ripe age as young babyhood because I had absolutely no idea what else to do with an infant. I mean, I wasn't even good at talking to her. I'd stare into her big, brown eyes and think "What do I say?" So, in order to not feel like a complete new-mother-idiot, I'd plop her down on my bed with a stack of baby books. And I'd read, to her, over and over again. I think basically "having a script" made me feel at ease with my own baby. Not to mention that reading has always been relaxing to me and as natural as breathing.

So we still read, and now that she's older it's become much more interactive and entertaining for us both, in most cases. And I still get that instant feeling of relaxation after we open the cover and she burrows down into my lap to get comfortable...and still. I love an activity that quiets her down. And I breathe in deep her smell of shampoo and fresh clothing, and treasure holding her little hand or rubbing her back.

Because, to be quite honest, I don't really like the "activities" where I have to actively participate, like playing the angel telling Mary that she's going to have a baby. We've been acting out the Christmas story--sometimes more and sometimes less elaborately--even since we stumbled upon an online video of a group of kids acting it out amazingly and she was spellbound. It sounds so sweet, and it is...but I have to cringe a little when I hear her say ¡Yo soy MarĂ­a! (I'm Mary) and go get her head covering, like the girl from the video, and her baby doll to stick up her shirt. Sometimes I now insist that I'm Joseph (who doesn't have lines) and not the angel (who seems to have a ton of lines, even though it's probably only a total of about 25 words, or so) so I can invent a way out of the "I'm Joseph and I'm going off to get food for Mary and the baby. In the kitchen. So don't bother me while I cook".

Sometimes I even feel pretty sorry for myself at those moments, like Can I ever catch a break? Could I ever just have five minutes of peace?!

They say you never really fully appreciate what your parents did for you until you become a parent, and this point was finally really brought home to me today. Home indeed, since I stared wide-eyed and giggling at the following words, at the exact same spot where I wrote them some 20+ years ago--the home where I grew up:

What do you have to do ? Just sit and watch golf and commercials? Wouldn't you love to do something with your daughter...(Don't take her for granted!)

If that wasn't enough for my chagrined mother-self looking back, of course I had to sign off as Miss Bored...

A letter! I wrote my mom a letter, when I was ten years old--basically accusing her of watching soaps and eating bonbons--and she actually wrote me back! I can't see myself doing that anytime soon, so I guess it's good that Angelica doesn't know how to spell or write letters least ones that don't include a bunch of stick figures and smiling suns. In fact, the correspondence went back and forth for over three full pages...and finally ended after I invented a code for each letter of the alphabet, and suggested we write in code (after responding to her question if we were still friends in the following way: "Friends? Well we might be Mother-Daughter friends--maybe.") So that was the end of that, I thought. Until I looked closer and realized that my mom actually had been the last one to respond after all. She had read my "coded" message and "translated it" into: "Be nice!!!!! Ok? Miss Bored. Respond".

But I think what got me the most was the list. After several requests on my part, including no short order of piles of guilt (If Miss Bored happened to get deadly sick, and you couldn't spend much time with her would you look back at this day and think "Wow how foolish I've been. I wish I would of spent more time with her when I could"). My mother was not only gracious enough to look past my grammatical mistakes and the absurdity of the guilt plea, but in addition to that she tried to let me down easily, insisting in the fact that she loved me, but didn't want to play at that moment (even though, really, wasn't she doing just that by engaging in the letter-writing process?!) because of what she had already done with me that day.

And here's the list:
1) fixed your hair
2.) let you have a piece of candy after breakfast
3.) bought you a momma kitty and kitten (not sure about this one: we had cats all throughout my childhood, but I tend to think that maybe these were of the stuffed sort?! I better ask)
4.) didn't make you pay me back
5.) played the ABC game in the car
6.) played the number game in the car--twice
7.) played the spelling game in the car--about ten times
8.) played the I-spy game in the car--four times
9.) let you have a cupcake
10.) I played checkers with you
11.) Wrote this silly note! (Oh, at least she acknowledges it!)

Talk about being put in your place! Funny, how I never had imagined myself at that age as so...demanding. And how I instantly related to my mom while I read it, and was truly touched by her unassuming acts of love. Going back to the present, I think I will always love our own "quiet" activities best, I think as a mother to Angelica. Yet, who better than my own mother to teach me, in a letter salvaged from the past, how those every day untold acts of love and unselfishness are the quiet legacies of our mother-daughter bonds.

And even more humbling is to see how as a grandmother, she's still pouring out that gift of love and attention to my babies.

Click here to watch the Christmas Story video that made such a hit at our house from New Zealand: