For example, see the photo to the left. Note the flannel (this is actually one of his shirts that I’ve stolen — Sorry, Dad), the backwards fashion of my watch, the ability to raise one eyebrow, and I will even admit…yes, there was an attempt at the Vulcan hand sign for “Live long and Prosper.” That pic didn’t quite turn out, but I assure you that I’m capable of producing the gesture. (I know Star Trek references push me more to the “weird nerd” end of the societal spectrum and less toward the “hipster” category that I’m supposed to be aiming for. Oh well.)
People have told me for as long as I can remember that I’m like my father. And it’s true. I analyze everything. I am loyal, stubborn, witty (or, at least, I like to think I am) and enjoy a good verbal debate. Time to myself is necessary for my sanity. (I am what one of our dear, wise friends calls a “site-specific introvert.”) I love being outdoors and going on adventures. I have his long oval face and tendency to crinkle my nose even when I’m smiling. All of these things have their merit and are ingrained into my system. They are parts of my personality that are fairly obvious. All of them can be attributed to Dad.
But recently, I’ve realized, I inherited quite a bit from my mother too. Because I’ve always been more of a Daddy’s girl, I hadn’t noticed how prominently my mother’s traits are also incorporated into my design.
As of now, I’ve completed two of my three finals for this Spring semester of “dabbling” in Graphic Design. (I’m not sure this ol’ non-trad gal wants to do any more than nine hours at a time…) I’ve been specifically intrigued by my Drawing I class. Drawing has stretched me. I’ve been a “doodler” for as long as I can remember, but creating legitimate art wasn’t an accomplishment of which I considered myself capable. I’ve discovered, though, that I’m actually pretty good at it. I forget that I tend to hold myself to really high standards (another token trait from my father) and sometimes I forget that it’s okay to start small and be imperfect. That’s how learning works, after all. Drawing has revealed some small talent I didn’t know I had.
Really, I’m noticing that I prefer being a creator, a designer, an artist. I don’t know that I can officially call myself and “artist,” but I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea. (Erwin McManus has some excellent thoughts on this – check out his book Artisan Soul.) And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realize that THAT part of me – the part that’s deeper, that’s just now being polished well enough that it shows through – is directly from my mom.
Mom’s traits are a bit more subtle. This is actually pretty ironic, because if you know her (or any of the Hayeses for that matter), “subtle” is NOT a word you would use as a descriptor. “Loud,” “boisterous,” or “jolly” would make more sense. Even “crazy” would be suitable. (Ha!) But Mom has this magic in her that sneaks out on any given day in sweet surprise. There’s a sparkle in her deep brown eyes that manifests itself in the details of what she does. Mom is creative. Mom makes the mundane exceptional. She lifts spirits and comforts hurts. She notices beauty and perpetuates compassion. It takes time and consistent interaction with her to see all of these things – you have to pay attention to catch all of the beauty that lives in her. It’s not all experienced at once. It’s like a warm, bubbly cobbler that takes too long in the oven, but smells SO delightful. And if you’re patient, you get the full experience – a bite of hot cobbler and cold ice cream? Divine.
Let me break down each facet of this loveliness, and let me start with the most obvious:
* Mother – This is tricky, because until recently, I never considered what it really meant to mother children. The idea crossed my mind once I was married, but it never stopped and took root. That is, it didn’t until M and I got sick and, as far as our foreseeable, physical abilities, lost our means to conceive biological babies. It wasn’t until I sank in that grief that I considered what bearing children entails. Yes, I grieved for the things we would miss out on, but I also considered all the difficult things that we now don’t have to endure. (Maybe this was a coping mechanism. Who knows.) I don’t have to watch my body change in scary (miraculous?) ways. I don’t have to go through labor (I mean, YIKES). I don’t have to worry incessantly about what my toddler puts in his mouth, or where my scissors are stored, or why these shoes fit little feet yesterday but don’t today, or how I’m going to pay for clothes and food and diapers and babysitters and…you get the idea. What I’m saying is this: I understand that motherhood is a beautiful gift, but I’ve also gathered a glimpse of how it is seriously HARD. I’m probably not even qualified to say that. What do I know? Regardless, I do know that Momma J does it well. She does motherhood so well, in fact, that she’s “mothered” more than her own flesh and blood. There are ALWAYS extra people at the Dunivan house. This, I’m sure, is due in large part to another one of Mom’s traits: superb hospitality. (Actually, all of these facets add to her exceptional-ness as Mother.)
She is —
* Hospitable – As I’ve learned to be a wife, I’ve really jumped on board with this one. I love preparing food and having friends in our home. There’s a fullness, a happiness that comes with dinner together that lasts long after the visit has ended. There is no question that this passion came from Mom. Hospitality is one of her gifts. This works out well, because cooking is also one of her gifts. Whether it came naturally, or was acquired over time, I’m not sure. (I mean, she’s had to cook for at least eight people at a time for a good part of motherhood. Talk about having to sink or swim…) At any rate, the woman knows what she’s doing! Really, any of you, just show up at Caruth. She’ll feed you. Probably buffet style. Maybe leftovers (but you won’t mind). And definitely the sweetest tea you’ve ever tasted.
* Creative – Often exposed through her cooking is her creative streak. She’d neatly pack our school lunches to reflect the color wheel. She makes fruit smoothies with fancy straws and berries on the glass rim. She’d surprise us on Saturday mornings with heart-shaped chocolate chip pancakes, complete with powdered sugar and strawberries. She would make and decorate birthday cakes that rivaled those at Causbie’s. She always strives to make our normal days special and our special days more so, mostly with what we already had and without spending a ton of cash.
I was recently introduced to a new definition of an “artist.” It is this — What makes you an artist is what you do with the material you have been given with which to create (also quoted from Artisan Soul). So, in fact, the more “limited” you are, the more creative you must be. As far as I know, we never had a lot of “extra” to work with, but it didn’t matter – Mom was creative, an artist. We didn’t have bouncy houses and sparklers and clowns (creepy…) for parties. We did have balloons and cake and punch and family and dirt and water guns (sometimes, they were empty squirt bottles). She would wrap our presents masterfully (another talent!) and curl the ribbons just so. And normal days? I remember having dance parties in the living room to “Dreamweaver” wearing nothing but our underwear. Good stuff.
Mom has also always had an excitement for photography. It’s in her blood. She has this keen ability and enjoyment for finding loveliness in the details. As her kids, we often have the privilege of being…um, captured. When Mom mentions pictures, our typical response is some combination of a sigh, a groan, and an eye roll. “Here we go again…” is normally uttered by one of my brothers under his breath. But I’ve come to understand her appreciation for photography, for the process of creating a well-orchestrated picture. Catching that one, golden moment is no easy task.
* Encouraging – This last point is fairly broad. Mom has always been one to step in with a “pick-me-up” talk. Growing up, I often didn’t want to hear them because I would be frustrated or hurt and not interested in the “up side.” Honestly, I don’t remember much of what she would say, but I do remember her presence. I remember her face. I remember her always trying to hug me, even if I didn’t want it. She is always comforting, always compassionate. She always has good intentions. She is one of those few people on Earth that couldn’t be mean if she wanted to be – it would bother her too much. There have been multiple times she’s “confessed” to minor infractions that I’d long forgotten. (Sometimes I do the same. I worry over the way I say things, hoping that I’ve conveyed myself accurately and I won’t be misunderstood. Maybe I get that from her too.) Her desire to lift others up is deep and vast.
There’s a saying that “cream rises to the top.” Maybe I’m using it out of context, but perhaps my “cream” is rising as I sense this shift in my being, as I continue to realize who I was designed to be. I can see that I might be turning into my mother. Often, people cringe at the thought of “turning into” their mothers. But why wouldn’t I want to be more of all of these things? How incredible is it that I’ve been given such a mother? How grateful I am that she has shared with me a few of her fantastic bits, that I might be able to hone them and make them my own. I find it pretty swell that I have a chance to come close to being as extraordinary a woman as she.