Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mother and Son

Today is my mom's birthday.  I inherited my temperament from her and perhaps some other fine attributes.  The youngest of seven siblings, she grew up in Childress, Texas before marrying a bespectacled high school principal from Lubbock.  People are largely the product of their childhood experiences.  Although she's lived in the LA area for decades now, my mom loves country music and has retained her accent, more or less.  You can take the girl out of Texas but not vice-versa.  And yet she's just as much a Southern Californian in outlook and sensibility.  Similarly, I'm still as comfortable in California as I am in the Upper Midwest, where I've resided lo these many years.

Having grown up in California, I got only bits and pieces of my mom's more youthful days, let alone her ancestral history.  Trips to Texas were few and far between, and rarely did relatives visit us.  I have only vague recollection of her mom and dad.  My wife and I are planning to visit our respective parents in late March; they were next-door neighbors until my parents moved about fifteen miles away in the 1990s.  Among other things, I hope to get more details about my mom's great-grandparents.  I'm a bit more informed about my father's family tree, thanks largely to my dad's now-deceased aunt, Leila, who was a hardcore genealogist.  As a Germanophile, though, I find my matrilineal ancestors more intriguing; my great-great-grandparents, I discovered only moments ago, immigrated from Baden and Lower Saxony.  I just finished looking at a few photos and explanatory letters that my mom had sent in a manila envelope.

In addition to my melancholy disposition, or perhaps as part and parcel of it, my mom bequeathed to me an appreciation for the finer things—music above all.  Undoubtedly her interest in my early musical training and her own musical nature sparked the creative flame within me.  Singing songs with acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment is one of my many fond memories.  Perhaps I'll write about my musical experiences at another time.  Suffice to say for now, playing, composing and listening to music have provided some of the most joyous moments in my life, and I have my mother to thank.

I suspect her sense of humor likewise had an effect on me.  When I was a teenager we'd love watching David Letterman and Steve Martin, and we've enjoyed employing our own caustic wit from time to time.  Take from me dry humor and music and I'll probably give up the ghost not long thereafter.  Like my mom, I think, I have found these two pastimes a source of great consolation, especially at times when life is bittersweet or disappointingly mundane.

I'm sure you've found yourself uttering phrases or exhibiting peculiar mannerisms around your children.  I might use a nickname for one of my kids or make a comment in a strange intonation with them not realizing it stems from my childhood.  Such is the influence of our mothers.

I'm not entirely sure what my mom wants out of life.  That's okay, because I don't know myself.  But whatever fears, aspirations, worries or sources of comfort I harbor in my heart, they didn't emerge ex nihilo.  I'm my mother's son.