Once upon a time, I was absolutely positive that you were out to ruin my life. You wanted to make sure that I had no fun, and you wanted that because you hated me. Further, you had no respect for me or my capabilities as a human being, and you thought I was utterly stupid and incompetent, not to be trusted to perform simple tasks. You were also completely chicken and stodgy and never did anything spontaneous or cool. You wouldn’t have known a risk if it hit you in the face, because all you ever did was play it safe, so life could be completely boring and I could just never have any fun at all. That was all you wanted, I was sure of it: like I say, to ruin my life.
“When you grow up and have a kid of your own,” you used to say, with patience that seemed belaboured to me at the time, “then you’ll understand.”
You told me so; and I didn’t listen. You were right, and I’m sorry.
Furthermore, now that I’m a grownup and a mother, nothing seems more ridiculous to me than the notion that you were a stodgy old stick-in-the-mud out to keep me from having any fun just so nobody would ever take any chances. I mean, even our luxurious first-world lifestyle involved living in a house constantly under construction and thus filled with all the potential hazards of any construction site. I don’t know anybody else who went to first grade already able to tell stories like “When we went to La Paz, the train crashed, and then my mom said we should have taken the bus instead, but then we ran into a friend of ours who did take the bus and the bus blew up.” I don’t know how, after I wrote that long and detailed essay about almost drowning while rafting the Vilcanota at age fourteen, you found it in yourself to let me go again, and simply state mildly that YOU weren’t going this time, even if it was the milder part of the river.
In fact, it would seem that, now that the chips are down and I’m grown up with a kid of my own, I’m the stodgy stick-in-the-mud who doesn’t take any risks.
At times you have said that you wonder if you did right by me in one way or another — say, by dragging me along while you pursued the adventurous life of the field anthropologist, exposing me to things other people my age hadn’t seen — and hey, still haven’t now that I’m in my late thirties. Maybe, you have mused to me on occasion, it was all a mistake, and you should have kept us kids somewhere safe and ordinary. Or sent me to a different school (but let’s be honest, you sent me to everything but military school, so you really tried it all and there really was no hope).
Never think such a thing. No insufferably wild, precocious little girl could ever have had a better mother; and nobody who’s ever walked the earth is prouder of their mother than I am.
I owe it all to you. Thank you, Chris.