Cameron, at 13 months, appears to be sporting the infamous D'Souza figure - a happily rotund belly and skinny chicken legs. Even during my pregnancy, when I weighed more than any other time in my life, my own legs were still pretty shapely (though, imagine toothpicks stuck in to russet potatoes - my feet were a teensy bit swollen). My calves look great in wedges, and really, heels of any height - and I attribute this to my mom. My brothers and I all have her thin, muscular legs and it's clear that my grandpa can be thanked for passing these genes along. All this being said, my mom was teased mercilessly about her skinny legs while growing up and if I remember correctly, I didn't see her in a pair of shorts until I was in high school & she was in her 40s.
We didn't particularly get along very well then - that was mostly my fault. I wanted to be an average American teenager doing all the "normal things" - wearing inappropriate clothing, dating boys, being mischievous in general. My mom came to the U.S. when she was in high school and with her own two brothers, settled in to her new life in Richmond Heights. Soon after, my aunts Lisa and Lynn came along and being the oldest, she did what I think she does best - took care of everyone else. When I was little, my parents took in my mom's brother who struggled with bipolar disorder. In middle school, my dad's brother immigrated to the U.S. from India with his wife and two children - they stayed with us until they were settled. My highschool friends and I still joke around about how my mom essentially operated a bed and breakfast for us during our Nerinx years - always offering showers, beds and meals no matter what time of day or night. A nurse by day, my mom also helped out when neighbors were sick - there really isn't anyone she wouldn't support.
Our relationship improved when I was in college and even more so when I moved back to St. Louis. But it wasn't until the holiday season of 2006 that I feel like everything changed. On Christmas Eve, I was struggling. I was working long hours on my feet in retail, balancing a Masters' program and stumbling through a half-hearted engagement that felt soooo disjointed. She was the last person I wanted to put my problems on and the only person I could talk to. After our holiday dinner, everything came flooding out (clearly, there must have been wine!). I was drowning and her assurances saved me. I had been putting so much pressure on myself and had been soooo overwhelmingly worried about what everybody would think (especially my family) - and ever-so-calmly, she said "If things change, we'll figure them out." And we did - a week later, I ended that engagement and my mom took me shopping for new bedding and dishes I'd use in my new place.
My parents met Brian for the first time on Thanksgiving Day in 2007 - it had been years since I'd brought someone home to meet them. We arrived early so my parents could get a chance to chat with Brian before the rest of our relatives came together. As it turned out, my assistance was needed in the kitchen (which, looking back, is hilarious because at that point, I didn't know the difference between apple cider and cider vinegar) and Brian was left on the couch at the mercy of my dad. As my mom and I whispered and giggled in the kitchen, Brian and my dad could be overheard discussing everything from hockey to the Lonesome Dove mini-series they'd both watched on PBS to the indian food that was a big part of our holiday meal. Clearly, Brian was "in".
In typical fashion, my mom gently hinted here and there about grandbabies once me and Brian were married. She had her "fix" in the fact that my Aunt Lisa kept the babies coming and Auntie Gene was beloved by all three. When Cameron arrived, every bit of energy my mom may have reserved for helping others was temporarily poured into loving her new grandson. Never have I seen anyone look at or love Cameron the way she does. She adores everything the kid does and perhaps, gets to spend the time with him that she didn't get to spend with me when I was growing up. Whatever the reason, I feel very lucky that Cameron has so much love in his life. And that I have so much love in mine.
So, as I approach my second Mother's Day (and my mom approaches her 29th!), all I can hope is that I'm half as good of a mom and caregiver and supporter as she is. Luckily, I have her bird legs, so I hope I got all of her other wonderful parts too!
"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." ~Washington Irving