I went to Puerto Vallarta with my mom a few weeks ago. It was her Christmas gift. Although we’ve been doing Christmas-time trips together for about a decade, I’m still shocked by the things I learn about my mom on these trips.
For example, my mother gets really chatty when traveling. While she is a healthy talker in every day life, when she gets on a plane she goes into hyperchat, and it’s not necessarily linear thought or storytelling. It’s more like she finds pleasure in the sound of speech. She will read aloud each and every sign within eyesight, want to describe everyone she can see sitting near her, and repeatedly discuss and change her mind about which drink she’ll have when the drink cart comes by. I try not to get annoyed (or embarrassed) by this, and have tried to give her the hint that I don’t care by bringing really long books on our five-hour plane rides, but she doesn’t get the hint. Instead, she notes, “Que buena eres para leer.” Yes mom, I’m a really good reader, that’s the only reason why I focused on “War and Peace” during the flight.
The trips also remind me that my mom’s whole physical being is stubborn to a fault. Even after 40 years of knowing one another, my mother cannot understand the idea of being on vacation. To her, these days are like all others—she is in bed by 8 p.m. and up by 6 a.m., and when she wakes around 2 a.m., it’s only to yell at me to turn the tv off because it’s keeping her awake.
I know some will ask why I don’t just get her her own room, and I would—if she let me. Upon even making that suggestion, she notes “si estamos aqui para celebrar juntas, para que me quieres mandar a otro cuarto.” Ok mom, guilt me into having to spend every single waking moment with you. I’m sure that will be healthy for both of us.
Perhaps because I know I’m not changing my mom’s personality, I just stand back and watch her do things I’d never expect from her. On this trip, I realized that she will walk toward any random to do and watch it for hours in search of an explanation. In Puerto Vallarta, she saw an iguana roaming around in the trees by a river and she was fascinated. Once she saw it, and the guy trying to photograph it, she became a spotter for him. “Alli esta,” “alla esta,” “no, vente por aca,” she yelled from a bridge for two hours while the hunt for the perfect iguana photograph was on. If she didn’t have a bad knee, I’m sure she would have been (and would have had me) in the river pointing out the giant iguana. In a million years I wouldn’t have chosen to spending our limited beach hours watching iguanas from a bridge.
As I stand there taking video of iguanas instead of having drinks on the beach, I always feel guilty that my mom and I don’t enjoy the same idea of a vacation. It reminds me that if we weren’t related, we probably wouldn’t have anything in common, and that makes me feel bad. I ponder this every year as I settle in for our long flight home and then my mom turns and asks, “If we go down, I don’t ask questions, and I just follow you if I want to live, right?” I smile, amused that she remembered and believes the annoyed admonition I gave her when she asked too many safety questions during a trip years ago.
Yes mom, when it really matters, let’s put aside all of the little stuff and we’ll both get out alive.