What My Mama Taught Me

January 29, 2013 in Asia, Indonesia

Family Travel

We’ve had a tough few weeks.

We’ve really enjoyed the outlying areas of Sulawesi, Tana Toraja and Bira. The road trip was just our speed. We enjoy being captains of our own fate and rolling slowly through the landscape. Very slowly in this case. But the cities, Jakarta and Makassar, where we’ve spent about half of our time…

Hate is a strong word.

Perhaps it’s just that we’re all excited for Australia and New Zealand, but we’re feeling a bit Asia’d out. There have been a lot of “let’s be tough and just get through it” pep talks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Mom in the process.

I miss her a lot and I think about her every day.

I have the Mom who has always cheered loud for whatever I was up to, and kept her tears for when I’m not looking. I know she misses us like crazy-cakes, but she never, ever, lays that on us with the insinuation that we should be doing anything other than what we are doing. She’s always made it a point to be vocally proud of me. Those are gifts I am determined to pass on to my children.

Family Travel

We were talking the other day about the boxes of pictures she’s mucking out of her basement and she told me she came across one of me at about eight years old on the business end of a corrugated washboard somewhere deep in Mexico. It made her laugh because I post so many pictures of me doing laundry for six in weird ways as we travel.

“Do you think we were bad parents?” She asked, half laughing, “You guys worked so hard!”

I rolled my eyes on text chat and assured her that they were exactly the opposite. My parents are the coolest people I know and they were fantastic parents.

That got me thinking about all of the things that my Mother taught me that have equipped me to attempt crazy things like raising kids out of backpacks.

Here is a short list of the indispensable lessons that were gift wrapped with a kiss from my Mama:

  • The fine art of handwashing: on washboards, in buckets, in lakes and rivers, with and without soap.
  • How to use sand to wash dishes
  • That ammonia treats a coral rash or other open wound (but it hurts!)
  • That there is, categorically, “Quiet Time”
  • How to cook a one pot meal (about thirty of them, actually!)
  • The fine art of a bucket shower
  • To “go” “Indian style”
  • How to mend anything
  • That there’s no sense in whining
  • The difference between a need and a want
  • That I need very little
  • To do with less
  • To speak Spanish bravely, even when I can’t speak it well
  • That the best use of a life is in supporting the lives and efforts of others
  • To play Scrabble viciously
  • That when things are tough, a good first course of action is to make tea
  • To love my kids, but not tie my worth to them, or their choices
  • The deep value of toughing things out
  • How to skin a log
  • To make beauty out of what I have within reach
  • That “This too, shall pass”
  • To make snow ice cream
  • To welcome strangers, and always feed them

I’m not enjoying much of Indonesia at the moment. But I remember times traveling when I was a child that we were hard too: 

  • The night we were besieged by chiquistas (tiny biting flies)
  • The week we were completely stuck, sunk up to our rear axle, and my Dad took three days to dig us out.
  • The week we had hitchhikers in with us and they were sleeping on MY bed.
  • The night the bad guys tried to steal my bike off of the front of the van (Dad managed to dissuade them)
  • The night we slept on the deck of a ferry crossing the sea of Cortez… that was a long night.

So I know that, to quote my Mama, “This too shall pass.”

The children are finishing their packing and stacking their backpacks by the front door. In seven short hours we’ll be up and moving toward the airport for an insanely early flight. It will be one more “not fun” moment to persevere through and practice cheerfulness in.

I’m so thankful for the all encompassing lesson of my childhood: That life is not easy, but if we work hard, and persevere, the hard things pass, we build good things, and there is value in that. There is joy in the journey, but there are also biting flies, hand washing, sleepless nights and the comfort of others that comes before our own.

Living one’s dream doesn’t mean it’s all wine and roses. My Mama taught me that. she’s still teaching me that.