We’re having a royal visit – my mum’s coming to stay, all 5’ 4” of her. We’ve been spring cleaning over the past week as inevitably my mother will closely be inspecting our dusty surfaces. She is the only one that calls me by my god given name despite having answered to my nick name since the second year of primary school. She starts every telephone conversation with “It’s your mother”; as if I wouldn’t recognise her dulcet tones. The royal “we” usually means that my Dad’s being reluctantly dragged away from his garden and has acquiesced for the sake of peace.
My relationship with my mother has always been a problematic one for us both though I don’t doubt that she loves me. We have struggled to communicate with each other since I could talk and continue to struggle; neither of knowing how to reach out and say what we both need to hear.
Over the years I have become immune to her criticism, adopting the Star Trek avoidance technique also known as “deflector shields up”. So when I was told after having my hair cut shorter, “I preferred it longer” or after modelling a new dress “it’s a shame you’ve got your Dad’s ankles”; I am now able to inhale deeply and move on. The casual barbs bounce straight off me, no longer causing me the anguish that they did when I was an awkward teenager.
So when we are invited to Ahmed’s family home, she won’t see a house filled with generations of laughter and joyful meals shared. All she will see is the abundant tacky ornaments and junk filled garden; what she won’t see is the small vegetable plot in the corner lovingly tended by Ahmed’s mother and the children’s hand knitted clothes which were painstakingly made by gentle hands. She will shudder with revulsion when the meal is served on the floor and tut fiercely when Ahmed sets the plates down on top of old newspapers.
My beloved adopted family are simple folk who will be hurt and bewildered by her disapproving looks and less than enthusiastic reception of their hospitality. She will only visibly relax when she is returned to the comfort of her five-star Hotel preferring it to real Turkish genuine heartfelt hospitality. And my mother will return to England with a few holiday trinkets having missed out on so much more. My adopted family are content in a way that many of us will never be and at the end of the day that is what makes them rich.
We are rich only through what we give, and poor only through what we refuse.
Ralph Waldo Emerson