We haven't always had an easy go of it, you and I. We recently had a conversation about something I had written previously regarding an interaction we had one afternoon. It was not our finest moment, an honest moment but certainly not our finest - not by a long shot. When I wrote about that interaction it was to highlight its honesty - a quality that I am so thankful is one of the foundations of our relationship. However, it was deeply misinterpreted, and for that I apologize. In my eagerness to portray its honesty, I did not think of that scene from any other perspective, including a hurtful one. So, in an attempt to clear the air about something I wrote, I wanted to write you this note just in time for Christmas this year. Perhaps I am as stubborn as you always told me I was.
It's been a tricky 18 months for us. I spent 10 of them on another continent, the furthest away from home I had ever been by a significant margin. I came back a different person to a different environment. We don't see each other nearly as much as we used to - partly due to the pace of both of our lives and partly due to the shifting of certain tides during my time abroad. I know it's hard to go from seeing each other every day to basically never for 10 months and then sometimes once or twice a week at best after I returned home from Italy. It's been hard on me, too. I miss you mucho.
Sometimes it seems like we have more of those not-our-finest moments than good ones since I got home. I know that might be hurtful, but I don't see it entirely in that light. I'll be honest, sometimes you piss me off as much as I know that sometimes I really get on your nerves. Moms will be moms and sons will be sons. But whenever we do have it out, I always take comfort in a few thoughts after we've both cooled off.
We always keep it real, sometimes too much so. Honesty is something I have never really skimped on with you since I was a high-schooler. So much so I think you have actually told me on more than one occasion that there is such a thing as too much honesty. I'm sure my, and yes I admit...sometimes dramatic, re-tellings of my various adventures on a continent more than 4,000 miles away from you did not help your heart rate. But even when we are in a heated discussion we never lie to each other. We always tell each other exactly what we think and feel even if it fuels the debate rather than defuses it.
Certainly there is no one who I have more heated discussions with regarding the current events of the world. From religion to politics we have argued about it all.
But there is something you need to know. You have given me so much, and I truly do recognize that. I'm talking about more than my Irish blood, which certainly might go a long way toward explaining the passionately fiery tone of our discussions.
Right there is one of the first and most critical things you have given me - passion. I've always been a passionate person, ever since I was very young. It doesn't take more than a quick look to see that I get it from you. It's the reason people always applaud when I perform or acknowledge my eloquence when I speak in public, and that comes straight from you.
Those same passionate debates gave me another quality that has served me immensely in my very young life - patience. Because the honest to goodness truth is that even though sometimes our opinions differ dramatically, sometimes to the point of raised voices and nasty tones, you're still my mom. Even on our worst day I still love you and would trade my life for yours without pause or hesitation. That's a kind of love and patience that I have with no one else in my life. Just you.
You have given me the parts of me that immediately come bursting through with anyone and everyone I have ever met in my life. You have given me my soul. My passionate, sometimes dramatic, thoughtful, loving, caring, virtuous, bright, vibrant and sensitive soul. That's all you.
My immense love for music and deep passion for romance? No question where that comes from (sorry dad). Whenever I do something romantic for whomever has captured my heart or write a beautifully charming story or plan out a perfectly intimate evening for a particular paramour? Where else could I possibly get these qualities?! I even acknowledge as much. Ask anyone I know! Whenever I share a particular evening plan with one of my female friends to garner their opinion (recognizing the wisdom in consulting a woman in the affairs of the heart, another trait I picked up from you. You were the original!), and they question where I, a man of this particular day and age, could have possibly acquired such wonderfully classic romantic thoughts and ideals? I always answer with the same response.
"My mama raised me right"
Every. Single. Time.
In fact, I remember one such interaction took place in Milan. You already know who the girl was (I was serious about the honesty thing!). We went to dinner one night, in fact, it was the first time we had ever been to dinner. It's wasn't a 'date' but I went to take care of the bill after a wonderful evening. She began to object and insisted we split it. I looked at her with a mock look of life-and-death seriousness and told that wonderful girl the following story.
"Believe me, I have no problem with splitting the bill, except for one thing. You see, my mother raised me a certain way. She instilled in me respect and manners, particularly with a lady. Ladies...she would often tell me...are to be respected, always. You hold the door on the way in and out of a building. You handle the bill after going out for dinner together or even a coffee. This is not because a woman cannot handle these things but because it is the right thing to do. It is what a gentleman would do. It is what a good man would do."
"Now," I said to that girl, my face still a mask of mock seriousness. "If I were to split this bill with you, I swear to god that my mother would appear through that door (I motioned to the front door of the restaurant), smack me upside the head and say to me 'What the hell is the matter with you?! Did I not raise you with manner?!'"
She proceeded to give me the look I have come to expect once I reach this point of this particular parable. That smile with the cocked eyebrow that jokingly says, "Oh c'mon"
Every time I get that look I continue on with the same severity.
"I know it sounds crazy! It is crazy! But I swear she will appear, right here in this restaurant. I know you don't believe me because she lives more than 4,000 miles away from where we are standing. I can see it in your eyes, but I swear it's the truth. She has this sixth sense about these kinds of things. So please, save me a beating." (I'm kidding of course, I actually say, "So please, save me a whoop-in'.)
That story hasn't failed me yet, and I suspect it never will.
Every exercise of chivalry is a direct reflection of you.
Furthermore, you tell me often that our colleagues speak very highly of me to you and with a great deal of respect. I certainly didn't get there on my own. Every time they praise me it is a direct praise of you as well. I know that you know that, but you should also know that I recognize it, too.
In the recipe that is me I know exactly who adds the passion and soul to the mix. I love you for these things and so many more.
So, this Christmas I wanted you to know that I love you so very much, and that I do recognize how much of you is instilled in me, even though sometimes it doesn't always seem like I do. Because while on the outside I might look like my father, my soul is a direct reflection of my mother. And that part? Always shines through, even on my worst days.
Buon Natale Mama.