Episode 2 - To My Mother, From Your Son

Episode 2 - To My Mother, From Your Son

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Episode 2 - To My Mother, From Your Son

Julian chooses his first official essay to read from the submissions choosing an essay that focuses on family. More specifically, mothers and their adult children. What does it mean when you’re far away from family, when you’ve begun your own? What does it feel like knowing that although you may be a mother or a father yourself, before any of that you were someone’s child?

Julian then reminisces about his family and the schims between them and then he thinks of his trans sister and the difficulties between the sibling.

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Transcript: Episode 2 - To My Mother, From Your Son


Works of Love is a production of RoseCraft

This is "Works of Love: The Podcast" I'm Julian Silver.  "Works of Love" is a meditation on a theme through listener submitted personal essays, that theme? Love, the possession of and lack of it. Today's essay "To My Mother, From Your Son." is written by Johann Stallsburg from Dunsmuri, California.


I like the desert. The openess of it. How, when I stand on my porch I can look to the horizon and imagine it never ends. If I travel a bit I can see Mount Shasta and puzzle over how something as magnificent as it can be comprehended by something as simple and small as myself.

My wife and I moved here after San Francisco caught the disease of too. Too expensive. Too crowded. Too trendy. Too future imperfect. Too much. Of course, I wouldn't be able to earn my living if not for Silicon Valley. I wouldn't be able to afford our house and my wife wouldn't be able to start her curiosa shop in downtown if she hadn't made a career there. We certainly wouldn't be able to raise our daughter in easy affluence if not for my wife's name and inheritance. Our life could be much more constrained. Made small and small by duty and necessity.

I feel guilty at times that it isn't. I regret more people don't have the luck we do.

Then I think of my mother. A Filipina immigrant. Her constraints. Married at too young an age to someone too uncaring and cruel. A prisoner of gender and societal norms. Her making one big bet and leaving the home she knew for a city of snow. Constructing a life which was uniquely her own despite the headwinds telling her to her life had already been decided.

I think of her working nights at the hospital while responding to Classified ads written by other Canadian lonelyhearts and my father being on the end of one of them.

I thought I knew love when I met my wife. But I learned what real love was when he had our daughter. Love means I'm second place in my wife's heart. It means that when my daughter sneezes in the Spring I want to duel each and every possible allergen to the death. Love means attending a dance recital and seeing a fierce beauty in the children's undeveloped clumsiness.

I like the desert because I can reflect.

Something that  always annoyed me about my mother I couldn't quite understand is why, when my mother calls me, she always introduces herself with, "My son, it is your mother." Of course, by virtue of her calling me her son it is inferred that she is my mother. I know that voice so well So well that I'm ignorant to parts of it. I cannot hear her accent. When my friend says my mother always called him TEEM, I hear it as Tim. I'm certain some of my pronunciations are a byproduct of her. No matter how far I travel, how far apart we are (for now we are over 4023 kilometers apart) I carry her with me.

My wife pointed out I hold my head the same way my mother does when we listen intently. Our eyes have the same excited spark when we think of some harmless mischief.

"My son, it is your mother," is redundant.  The fact that I am hers is inescapable.

However, I'm also certain that much of my personality is a direct refutation of my mother. She felt that she missed out on the first twenty-five years of her life growing up in the Philippines in the 40s as a girl. That marriage was something that held her back until she saved every nickel and dime for the better part of three years so she could afford a ticket to somewhere halfway across the world. When she arrived in Toronto she wanted to be in the heart of it. To take in all the people and happenings she only read about. She operates as if there's two decades stolen from her that she'll never get back.

Whereas I, I always liked the quiet. There was always enough buzzing in my head to fill out a silent room. Large mobs of people make me feel as if I'm sacrificing some part of myself. Like I'm forfeiting something real and mine to operate within a group. My mother loves throwing parties, she was and is a wonderful host. But I always secluded myself in my room. The things I imagined worth more to me than any banal pleasantries that could be found over a plate of lumpia.

My mother likes to say, "My son, you are still ascending the mountain whereas I have nearly finished my descent." She does this whenever I mention some ache or other indication of my age. However, I think she is the one who will always be climbing. I imagine if she were to go with me to view Mt. Shasta she would be excited by the idea of climbing it. Of seeing the challenge of overcoming something once more.

After the death of my father she married another man and then another man after that. Outliving each of them. Her fourth husband, independently wealthy, showed her how to purchase ATMs and stock them. After his death, she applied those teachings and is now the fourth largest independent ATM owner in the Toronto area. She also stocks each one herself. Once when we were talking, after she had a long day, she said, "I like to imagine all the people who go to the ATMs. A sweaty teenager taking a girl to the movies. A husband who impulsviely buys his wife some flowers while he's getting her some tampons. Maybe a young woman getting twenty dollars for a homeless man and his loyal aso."

When I left for the States she didn't cry. She smiled tightly and said, "If that's where your life is, I hope you find it." She never made a big deal of our distance, though as time has gone on and she's crept closer to her eighties she'll let it slip that she thinks about it. "You can't have a kid in the States! It'll cost too much and she won't grow up around her grandmother. Who will bake her cookies and show her Filipino recipes?"

When I told her, "I can show her how to make adobo and pancit, pandesal and flan."  She responded, "But she'll make it your way and not the right way."

But now, with a daughter of my own I look at the opening chapters of her life and realize it can't be written without first writing the stories of me and my wife’s life. And our lives cannot be written without the story of our parents. However, my daughter probably won't know her grandmothers when she's forty. She'll only have this time, these early years to learn the story  our elders teach us about life - that it ends. And if my daughter has children they won't know their great-grandmother. She'll become more-and-more of an abstraction. The subject of a family story that gets passed down. Time separates us all. And now, with my mother in Canada and me in the states, distance also separates us.

Perhaps that's the reason she starts every phone call with "My son, it is your mother." Perhaps it's her way of trying to pull us together even though our individual lives have led us apart. A reminder, verbal and present, that no matter where I am, so long as she is alive, she will continue to claim that relationship. To bring me as close as she can despite the 4000 kilometers separating us. Or perhaps it's a reminder, no matter where I go or what I turn out to be the core of me will be Emily's husband, Charlotte's father, and my mother's son.


And that was "To My Mother, From Your Son" by Johan Stallsburg. I chose this essay this week because I thought the sentiment was lovely. The pecularities of loved ones are maybe their way of trying to communicate something they're not even aware they're trying to communicate. I think of Coraline and how, as she was getting sick she would consistently ask me if I'd eaten. As if she wanted to remind me enough while she was alive so I would remember when she was gone. The essay also spoke to me because I wish my family were closer than we are. All of us carry a certain wariness of each other when we talk, as if there are fault lines underneath our relationships with one another and it takes vigilance to avoid slipping into them and causing a schism. Of course, things were especially difficult when my sister came out as a transwoman. Hopefully, we'll mend those faultlines one day.

This has been Works of Love, I’m Julian Silver. Thank you for listening.

Contest Outro

This episode of Works of Love was written and performed by Elliott Rose. Music by Ross Bugden licensed through Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To find more of Ross’s music go to soundcloud.com/rossbugden.

If you have any thoughts about today's essay please feel free to reach out to us on Twitter we’re @worksoflovepod, by e-mail at worksoflovepodcast@gmail.com or go to our website at wolpod.com.

Also, we are having a contest. If you like this show  and you want to support us, please leave an iTunes review. If you leave an iTunes review t you will be automatically entered to win a copy of “Zen Pencils: Cartoon Quotes From Inspirational Folks” by Gavin Aung Than.  The winners will be announced during Episode 11.

This has been Works of Love. Thank you for listening.