Now it could have been previously mentioned whacked-out hormonal issues, but nonetheless, my mom's words cut me deeply. We were having a conversation on skype and I mentioned that I may take the opportunity to move into a really kick-ass apartment. An apartment that I could live in for a great price in exchange for overseeing it's remodeling, designing the kitchen, painting and sewing. I also mentioned that I was thinking of having the rest of my things (those that I just couldn't part with and didn't sell at my giant, pre-moving garage sale) shipped over here because they would work so perfectly in my new palace.
Apparently these remarks were like the last crank of a can opener before the lid is finally freed. Mom popped her lid.
Now please understand, this is not a rant against my mom. I'm a mother too and I know where she is coming from. But I've decided to write about this (it's been a month since our conversation and we're both calmer) because these types of things are a very real part of what may sometimes seem like the "fairytale" life of someone who has chosen to become an ex-patriot and leave their country of birth.
My mother, as she was ironing her clothes in preparation for a trip with my sister (the only child she now has left), proceeded to let go on me. So, when am I planning on coming back? It was only supposed to be for one year. Am I ever planning on coming back? My boys need me. Oh YES, they do! I'm close to becoming a persona non grata and am not such a hot daughter, etc...etc. (please keep in mind that this is what I heard...it may not have been actually what she said. I suffer from more than a little guilt). The worst part was, as she was furiously pressing her pants, she told me that she had a whole lot more to say but was holding it back for fear of burning bridges. She did finish by saying "Delana will do what Delana wants to do".
I was stunned. I tried to defend myself. I protested that the boys were grown up and didn't need me all that much. I pointed out that she had moved away from her family. In the end, I excused myself and said I had to go. And as soon as I pushed the little red button that ended the call, I cried.
Not a few tears. Not a gentle, princess weeping. It was the can't-get-air-gasping-face-all-blotchy-eye-swelling-gross-bawling kind of crying.
I called my sister immediately, not seeking redemption (or tattling on my mom) but asking for her honest opinion on the choices that I've made. And she told me what she thought as well. In a gentler fashion.
This weighed on me heavily for days. I vacillated between feeling like a horrible villain to naughty little girl; a selfish, uncaring mother to a teenager just plain pissed off at how completely unfair parents can be and how they never let us do what we want!
But mostly, I was worried about my boys. The way my mom had talked, I felt she knew something about them and their lives that I didn't know. Were they alright? Was something happening in their lives that they weren't telling me about because I'm just too far away? Had I really abandoned them, leaving them motherless and cast adrift? Was I just being a selfish wench who doesn't even deserve the wonderful family I've been so lucky to be blessed with?
I finally got a chance to talk to the boys over the next couple of days. I spoke with the youngest on facebook and briefly explained the situation and asked him if he thought I was behaving like a bad mom. His lightening fast, initial response had me on my knees in laughter.
Colin: I think a bad daughter is someone who pawns their mother's precious moments dolls for a couple of weeks stay in a motel in Massachusets with a guy named Ray whom she met at a bowling ally.
I'm 23. Ryan's 25. That's a three with a twenty before it.
Delana: I know. Do you think it's more her missing me and trying to come up with a reason to get me home?
Colin: Like...chhhyeah! Of course. I miss you too. I'm not going to call you a bad mother because I don't think you are.
You're an autonomist....with good intentions.
He then told me he was going to be completely honest with me...and I waited for a tongue lashing. But instead he proceeded to tell me that he misses me but would miss me if I still lived 3 hours away. Because he doesn't have the time or money to do any visiting and besides, he said, how much did you see your mom when you were our ages?
Colin: I want you to be doing what you want to be doing. I'm proud of you for taking the leap. Although it's not unlike you...as I've heard.
Delana: Are you being completely honest here?
Colin: Honest. So don't let Grandma get you all butthurt over what she thinks Ryan and I feel. Cause it's not true. And don't let anyone make you feel like you're a bad mother because I know, I really know how much you sacrificed for us. And don't get mad a Grandma either. She misses you.
This brings us to one question and two points. The question...what the hell is "butthurt"? The points...I never sacrificed anything. Being a mother isn't about sacrifice, it's about love and I told him so. Point number two...I'm not mad at mom.
I spoke with son number one on the telephone a few days later and he iterated what his brother had already said. This brings up one more point. I have cool sons. And I was relieved.....sort of.
But this still leaves the issue (guilt) of my mom and my sister. We are 3. That's all. As my sister told me "We miss you. We love you. We want you to come home....when you're ready....but that will be soon, won't it? Mom doesn't want to wait to spend time with you when she's old or sick. She wants you now. And so do I".
There is no nice, neat finish to this story. There is no answer to these questions. These are things that I imagine all expatriates struggle with. The truth is, everything my mom said to me are things that I continually ask myself. And I return to...probably selfishly... Delana will do what Delana wants to do. But she will feel a little guilty about it. Because she knows that in spite of her mother letting it all go on her (on an off moment, probably related to all that ironing she had to do), it's only because her mother loves her....and misses her. And her mother is loved and missed in return.