My brother has long maintained that my mother and I are basically the same person. I am not sure how the metaphysics of that assertion work exactly, but he is adamant on the point.
As much as I loved my mother and admire her many excellent qualities, I’m not sure I want to be the same person she was. For one thing, it seems very disrespectful of who she was as a person to suggest that anyone else (myself included) could be her as effectively as she did. Secondly, it seems a rather lazy approach to life to just duplicate someone else’s protoplasm. Thirdly, I do believe that God made us each uniquely and we are fitted for a specific purpose. I’d like to think that I have something to offer the world independent from being a pale carbon copy of my mother. Basically, the world was lucky enough to have one of my mother. She was so special that no one could ever replace her. The world doesn’t need me to be a replica of my mother any more than diamonds need cubic zirconia. The world might need me to be cubic zirconia, though. You never can tell.
I can think of a few simple differences between me and my mother right off the bat. My mother never met a stranger- only friends she hadn’t met yet. She loved meeting new people and reveled in conversation. I live in a world of strangers. My ability to communicate, even with people to whom I am close, can dry up like a riverbed in Southern California. My mother could do arithmetic in her head. I can’t be sure of a reasonable amount to tip without a calculator, pencil, and paper. I got excited when I learned that doubling the tax in California gives you a good approximate tip amount. The only problem was, once I determined the tip amount, I then had to mentally add it to the bill in order to know how much money to leave. My mother would have been able to take the check, compute 15%, add the 15% amount to the total, pull out enough cash to pay, and know exactly how much change she had coming back. My mother did not eat pizza. I just can’t fathom how someone could live over 85 years on this planet and never eat pizza.
You can see that we are not, in fact, the same person. Still, I understand my brother’s point. There have been many times, especially since my mother died, when I have caught myself in an expression or gesture that reminds me so much of something my mother would have done. When my mind is playing tricks on me, I find myself wondering if I got a particular mannerism from her or if she got it from me. It is very confusing. It seems likely that I somehow picked up traits from her by osmosis, just from having been around her so much. What I find really weird is that I sometimes recognize myself doing a mannerism that she did when I never even realized she had the mannerism while she was alive. For instance, there is a particular face I make when I am stumped by a question. I never particularly noticed that face when my mother was alive, but, now, I clearly remember her making that face.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing, do you think, that I seem to be turning into my mother? My brother would argue that it isn’t a case of me “turning into” my mother, but that I always was my mother. That whole notion contorts my brain into a very uncomfortable position. It is sort of like looking at the little girl on the Morton salt container and seeing her picture on the Morton salt container she is holding, where that tinier little girl is holding a still tinier Morton salt container… etc., etc., etc. Help me!
The thing is, I do want to be a unique person, but I also love that I may be growing some of my mother’s wonderful traits within myself. Maybe there is no way to know if it is good or bad that I am turning into my mother. And maybe it doesn’t really matter because it is happening, whether I want it to or not. Let me explain. I realized something the other day which firmly convinced me that both nature and nurture are far stronger than I ever understood.
We used to laugh at my mother and her novel approach to flatware. I remember a day when I brought my mother a dish of ice cream and a spoon from the kitchen. She looked at the spoon and pointed out that it was okay, but that I had not brought her “favorite” spoon. I looked at her as if she had suddenly grown another head and asked how she could tell the difference between the spoons. The teaspoons all looked alike to me. As it turned out, she had a few spoons from a mismatched set of flatware she bought at a thrift store that were much smaller in size. Those were her “favorite” spoons because she said they fit in her mouth better. From that day on, I tried to remember to fetch the “favorite” spoon when serving her something that required a rounded utensil.
The other morning, I realized I was rooting through the silverware drawer looking for my favorite spoon with which to eat my cereal. In my case, it is actually the sugar spoon that came with my flatware set. It is a better fit for the shape of my mouth than the teaspoons. I wasn’t laughing.
Do you think you have inherited any traits or tendencies from a parent? How do they manifest? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a natural, nurturing day!