Recently I renewed my driver’s license. As usual, I had my picture taken. When the clerk handed me my new license and I looked at the picture, I almost gasped. For smiling back at me was my mother! Or at least the lady (namely me!) looked a lot like my mother, Millie.
That incident got me to thinking. In what ways am I turning into my mother? On a physical level, I have the same facial shape, I have relatively few gray hairs (for my age!), I have arthritis, and I’m slightly anemic—just like Mom. Like Mom I tend to worry about things: Will it snow on our Christmas get-together? Will my dumplings turn out today? Like Mom, I tend to worry about other people: Will the baby be healthy? Will so-and-so find a new job? What kind of a world are we leaving for our children’s children’s children? Like Mom, I tend to work hard too, sometimes buying into the maxim, “If you want it done right, do it yourself!”
But I hope I’m turning into my mother on a deeper level. For example, Mom loved people. All kinds of people. When I hear myself speaking pleasantly and respectfully to store clerks, waitresses, and the letter carrier, I hear my mother speaking. Mom served others graciously. Her idea of fun was a house and yard filled with family and friends. She baked every Saturday morning. She made us kids carry loaves of rye bread to the neighbors or an apple pie to the hired hand on the farm next door. The symbol of Mom’s serving of others was the apron she wore every day. She put it on before sunrise most days and she didn’t take it off until the evening when she sat on the front porch with my father. I pray I can serve others as joyfully as she did.
My mother’s pleasantness grew out of her strong faith in God, a faith shown in small, unobtrusive ways. Mom prayed. She had a little kitchen prayer taped above the kitchen sink. She sometimes prayed aloud spontaneously. When we pulled into the driveway after a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s, for example, she would say, “And we thank you, Lord, for a safe journey.” When things seemed to go bad for us, she’d say, “The Good Lord knows what he’s doing”—even though she had no idea what the Good Lord was doing. In her later years, every day she watched Mass on EWTN and prayed a rosary. And once a week she bought fresh flowers to put in front of her statue of Mary.
Sometimes we fight against turning into our parents. When we’re young we think, “I’ll never say that to my kids!” Yet years later we find ourselves saying some of the same things our parents did. In truth, of course, we can’t really turn into our parents. After all, our parents have (or had) their own gifts and shortcomings, their unique challenges and graces. And we have ours. I guess the trick is to know what things from our parents we should let go of, and what things we should hang on to for dear life.
Are you turning into one of your parents?
What things from your parents are you letting go of? Are there any things you’re hanging on to?