“All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my mother.” – Abraham Lincoln
When I was growing up and experienced illness or stress (which was a lot), I would cherish the times my Mom would come into my room and check on me. Sometimes she had soup with her, sometimes some fruit and crackers, sometimes a glass of homemade lemonade or a bowl of strawberry ice cream. Also she spent time talking to me or she would give me my all-time favorite relaxation activity: the tickie.
The tickie is something my Mom did to me from a before I could remember as a way to soothe and calm me down. I had bronchitis a lot when I was much younger and asthma. Basically, it was my Mom using her hands to gently “tickle” my arms back and forth. It was soooo soothing to me. It was better than a massage (but nowadays, a foot massage or hand massage from my husband is very welcoming as well when I’m tired or stressed out).
Even when I go back and visit my folks in Hawaii, sometimes my Mom and I would be sitting on the couch and I’d extend my forearm towards her. We wouldn’t have to say anything but she smiled and would tickie my arm while we chatted about anything that came to mind.
It’s funny how a parent can influence a child to mimic gestures of love and affection on others. We had dogs in a previous life and each one loved when I’d gently massage their back side or their chest or under-belly. They knew how to relax! So it was when I used to baby-sit occasionally and the baby didn’t want to nap. I would just sit and give a tickie. At first, it was playful but the longer I sat and gave the tickie, the eyelids would start to droop and soon enough, the baby would drift off to sleep.
So it was the same for me when my Mom would tickie me. Ironically, as I got older, she taught me how to tickie her and we would take turns giving tickies, listening to Chopin or I would read to her about my latest adventure in Greek mythology, Agatha Christie mystery or my own made-up stories.
Initially, I used to be hurt while I was reading to her and giving her a tickie and next thing I knew she’d fallen asleep! I would wake her up as she dozed and she’d smile and murmur, “Keep going, Sweetie. I’m listening. Don’t forget to tickie me.” I would later complain she often fell asleep numerous times so she wouldn’t get to hear me reading about my stories and she’d say, “Baby doll, I do hear them. And I remember them in my dreams.”
“But why can’t you stay awake?” I’d grumpily ask her. “I stay awake when you tickie me!” and she’d laugh and say, “You fall asleep just like me, Babe. Tickies are meant to relax and soothe. It was a way I could calm you down, get you to stop coughing when you were sick or make you feel better when you had an ow-wee or if one of your playmates didn’t want to play with you anymore and hurt your feelings. Tickies make you feel better.”
Mothers just instinctively know what makes us feel better. At least, my Mom did. She did it so well that to this day, I would still ask her to tickie me on my yearly visits at least once or twice. It just brings back such a wonderful memory of being close to her, being with her, talking to her and just having her presence with me.
I live in Oregon and my folks live in Hawaii. We communicate most of the time by phone. We tried Skype, she does have e-mail but doesn’t check it often. My folks don’t believe in text. They are old school and proud of it. They will keep up with the times only to the extent they have to and at least have cell phones. Of course, it doesn’t mean they leave them on or check them or answer them. But they have them.
My Mom was a firm believer in face-to-face communication and my Dad also prefers this method. My Mom often told me that the best way to get to know someone is to spend time with them in person, not just by phone, not just by letter or e-mail or Skype or other “technological” method.
“A conversation between two people is best conducted facing each other. Eye contact. Nodding in acknowledgment. Even disagreements can be resolved face-to-face. It is so much better in person.”
And i have to agree. That’s why tickies cannot be done online. Tickies are not virtual. Tickies happen with physical contact. Closeness. Intimacy. Bonding.
Tickies happen with love. My Mom demonstrated that to me from a very young age and I have never forgotten that memory. Mothers instill many memories in us that influence us for better or worse. Their love spans the globe even from a distance, at least mine does. Her little care packages, her little funny notes and sayings. All done with care and thought. Her timing may not always be there but I know it’s always the thought that counts.
I used to say I was the “forgotten child” because my older brother was the pride and joy on her side of the family. He was the first-born grandson, shared the same birthday as her father and was named after his great-grandfather and grandfather plus has a Hawaiian middle name.
Me? Well, my Mom didn’t know she was pregnant with me until almost 6 months. She was busy working, playing volleyball at church camp, taking care of my active, older brother and had to be told by her doctor the reason for her recent tiredness and skipping periods was because she was expecting me in a few months. HELLO? WOMAN?! Smart as you are, can you not see the signs from your body?
Years ago, I used to resent it. I used to feel ignored and thought, ‘Meh, I’m a girl. My Asian culture thrives on boys. Family name and all that bullshit.” So I just accepted it. And one day a few years ago while visiting my folks, my Mom actually passed me in the parking garage not even recognizing me (I had lost quite a bit of weight, had new hairstyle, so well…sometimes these things happen).
I stopped and turned around and said “Mom! It’s me!”
She turned around and then her eyes got big. “Oh, Sharon! (she doesn’t use my nickname) gosh, Babe! I didn’t even know it was you. You’ve changed–you’re smaller…you look great. Oh, hug your Momma!” and I did, rather fiercely. She is a little shorter than me now. Has salt and pepper hair. Prefers to wear flat shoes or slippers and voluminous, flowery dresses (in Hawaii, we call them mu’umu’u). Also, she ALWAYS with a couple plastic bags and a rolling cart. ALWAYS.
She also did it when I visited her classroom one day and asked if I was lost.
I told her, “No, I”m just your forgotten child.”
Now, I meant it in jest (sort of) but I had to admit, why was my Mom not recognizing me? I didn’t drastically lose weight. I might’ve cut my hair but I was still the same person. Same voice. What was different?
She later told me one late evening when I had come over to sample some of my Dad’s home-cooked meals.
“You’ve changed, Sash (another nickname). You seem to exude more confidence, more…maturity….and you grow lovelier every time I see you. I’m so proud of you, Baby doll!” (another nickname, but never ‘Shalei’).
So really, my Mom never “forgot” me, she said I just hardly ever gave her a reason to worry. Only when I got really sick (chronic leukemia diagnosis). But I bounced back from that eventually with lots of prayers, a health organic diet and TONS of positive thoughts I gorged on to my own body. Anything is possible. So is recovering from what could have been a fatal disease.
She knew I had a good head on my shoulders. I could be relied upon. I was responsible. I stayed out of trouble and never skirted with the law. I didn’t have bad associates. I made my share of blunders and mistakes, but nothing that I couldn’t learn from and improve upon.
My Mom brought me up right. She taught me many important lessons about being persistent. Taking action instead of just dreaming about something. Standing up for something I believed in regardless if I was in the minority. Being popular is overrated. Never too old to dream and want more. Always be open to learning and be willing to change restricted thinking. Embrace fear and feed faith. Love more to receive more.
So on the eve of the traditional Mother’s Day celebration, I wanted to thank my Mom for all she has done to help mold me into becoming the woman I am today.
And especially, for all the tickies she gave me because the best thing about that was I got to spend time with her.
I love you, Mom. Have a wonderful Happy Mother’s Day.