When the past finally feels like the past

For many, many years my stomach would get tight at the thought of visiting “home,” a word that until only recently had meant “childhood home,” the place where I grew up, the place of my parents.

Before I write anything misleading, I have to say first that I grew up in a house with incredible love. My brother and I were (are) our parents’ lives and there was absolutely no doubt how important we were to them. But like any community of human beings we were all flawed, and add to that immigration stress and cultural and language gaps and we had a healthy dose of family dysfunction. I’d spent too many years of my adult life wanting to be free of that and to rebuild my life in peace and healthy communication with my own nuclear family. But unbreakable family ties “obligated” me to visit home once a year.

And inevitably as soon as I stepped foot into my house, the house where I went through puberty and all the hormonal ups and downs of a girl who was pretty moody to begin with, I would slip back into the shoes of the 15 year-old me. I’d feel the same panic whenever I heard my parents begin to raise their voices, and I’d struggle unsuccessfully to stay calm whenever I felt my mother was nagging or controlling too much. If Max needed any flashback to the young me he was lucky to have never known, well, this was it.

So last Sunday, as we were pulling into our old Boston home, those old knots came back. It’s going to happen again, I thought; my parents are going to drive me crazy, I am going to ruin this vacation by screaming at them.

Except I haven’t. It’s been day 5. Things have been so pleasant. My parents have been pleasant, for the most part. Sure, it was annoying the way they were bickering over the menu during my dad’s birthday dinner and yes, it is irritating the way my mom keeps shoving food at me even after I tell her repeatedly I am not hungry. But for some reason this time I don’t really have any of those old feelings anymore. It is as if the adolescent and young adult in me had finally faded, for good, into the past. I entered my parents’ house this time with the peace and confidence of a woman with her own family, own home and new history. I’m so grateful that the day has come.

7 thoughts on “When the past finally feels like the past

  1. Moms do love to feed their kids. I’ll probably be the same way when my kids are grown.

    I’m so glad you’re having a good time. Hooray for inner peace and self-confidence! (Could you send some my way??)

  2. Oh my, you do write such wonderfully heartfelt and amazingly honest and open posts. I totally get so very much of this and agree, there comes a time when you look at things differently and with enough detachment and maturity to see and feel things in a new way.

  3. Wow, what a beautiful, insightful, and heartfelt post. I can completely understand where you are coming from. My mom lives with me and it has been a struggle. A daily struggle. I love her dearly, but like you said, being around her sometimes makes me feel like I regress into my childhood self. And I can’t seem to get away from the dysfunction of years past. Things are getting better. But it comes and goes in waves and cycles. I hope that someday I can truly say I’ve left the past behind like you have managed to do. That is really fantastic!

    So happy to meet you through the Empress. She is an amazing person and has connnected me with many wonderful bloggers. I look forward to reading more from you!

  4. Ceci: I can’t help but feel that a lot of this peace has to do with blogging. Finding your tribe and acceptance and love for you here.

    All the people that come here, keep coming here, for the love of you.

    I think that having more love that is here for you, and in recognition and valuing of you, makes the balance more level as far as your expectations and incompleteness in your family of origin go.

    You are 100% honest here, and are loved and accepted for it. Honesty is freeing: it’s a risk, b/c if you put yourself out there, and are judged and rejected, then we’re back to the conditional performance based love of childhood.

    In your blog, you are who you are and we love you for it.

    You have a new family now. Of course, Fred and your husband, and now in us.

    We love you.

    That fills your emotional tank of reserve, so you have more to keep you going when you go home.

    You don’t come home empty handed anymore, b/c we are all here.

    We love you, Ceci. No one else like you in my world.

  5. I have so much to say on this, but I think you know most of it simply because of our similar experiences. I also can’t look past my mom’s need to overprotect and her way of showing she cares, which is to dote, caution and overfeed. I smiled at the part about your mom shoving food at you even after repeated no’s. My Guy went through that this year when he came home with me and he just couldn’t understand why my culture was hellbent on stuffing him to the gills. But that’s their (our?) way of showing we care, our generosity and hospitality.

    When my mom’s around, I always feel like I’m doing something wrong because she’s quick to point out the negative and slow (if ever) to praise. I need to not take things to heart and know that the intentions are always noble; it’s just the execution that fails my own expectations. But that doesn’t make it terrible. I just need to reconcile the differences in my head, and my heart.

    So glad you did – I know how wonderful that can feel. I hope I will too.

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