Sunday, May 08, 2011

To My Mother, on Mother's Day

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—It's Mother's Day, so I'm taking a temporary break from my epic, multi-part Ebertfest recap to mark the occasion. The "holiday" especially means something in my case.

For those who have followed this blog all the way from its humble beginnings in 2006, you will all know of the fraught history between my mother and me. I'm not really inclined to go over all that again; for those who are new to My Life, at 24 Frames Per Second, you can read these old posts to get you up to speed. Let me put it this way: She may not have been quite as extreme as Amy "Tiger Mom" Chua apparently was toward her first daughter, but she was often quite close to it...and it's taken me years to cast off the resentments that built up as a result of frustrations borne out of her imposing, tough-love mothering style.

Distance, though, has allowed me to come to a fuller appreciation of the genuinely loving impulses that fueled everything she did—even when those impulses led her to do things (like, say, guilt-tripping me into majoring into a field in college—accounting—in which I had no interest whatsoever) that drove me to damn near emotional breakdown at the time. And in an indirect way, she has taught me a larger lesson about love and humanity.

I'll be the first to admit that I have not always treated my own mother with the kindness she (more often than not) deserves. All that pent-up resentment has sometimes led to me treat my mother as a enemy rather than as a parent or even a human being, to the point where I would often get angry at her about things she would say or do that clearly didn't deserve my ire. (When she will try to helpfully suggest something to me in a given situation, for instance, I often find it difficult not to read commands into those suggestions, even if nothing in her manner would suggest such a thing.)

And yet, amidst it all, my mother still treats me the same way she always has. Even now, whenever I come back home to visit—as I did, briefly, this weekend—she'll still do things like prepare food for me or ask if there's anything I need for her to buy for me. In other words, she'll still act in as loving a way as she ever did. Even after all the ill treatment, deserved or not, I've given her over the years, she doesn't allow that to build up inside of her and influence the way she acts toward me.

In other words, she accepts me, flaws and all—which is more than I can say for the way I've treated her sometimes. And isn't that kind of love and acceptance, well, the essence of humanism? Nobody's perfect, obviously, and not everything one says or does will endear oneself to others...but if you still value that person's love and friendship, you'll look past those flaws. My mother has been doing that ever since I was born, and this realization humbles me into trying my best to behave in a like manner towards her.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Even if I may not always show it, I still treasure you in many ways, and I honestly sometimes dread what it'd be like to have you gone from my life.

I'll end this post with a photo:

From left to right: my brother Masao, me and my mother, in Shanghai in 2008. (If you're wondering about the expression I'm sporting on my face in this one: I'm pretending that that lion is biting my hand. Yes, I can be quite the silly boy sometimes.)


odienator said...

Of course, you know I can relate to this. And it's interesting that I made my peace with my Mom when I was about your age. Maybe it's just a part of being a son.

Anyway, great piece. Now if I don't get on the road to my mother's, she's going to come through this computer screen and beat my ass.

Kenji Fujishima said...

I hope not!