Your mother’s birthday was this week, and because of this grand occasion, I’m going to tell you a story about what makes her so special.
Most people who know your mother know her silly side. Her happy-go-lucky humor and the rays of sunshine she magically produces within her soul and make their way up into her smile. I’m so happy she has this, and I’m equally as happy to know that she has managed to pass this special skill onto you. You only have 4 teeth, Blue, but you manage to create supernovas of happiness with every grin.
Your mother smiles all the time, too. But maybe, just maybe, the sunshine doesn’t appear by magic. Deep down, hidden away from those who don’t value valuable things, the magic is produced by something very important to your mother. See, her sunshine is not produced because of silliness. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. It’s born out of a deeply passionate and fiery sense of justice.
You know this is true, Blue, but let me tell you a story to help illustrate the point, anyway.
A long time ago, your mother went to Disneyland. There are faded photos of her with your gonggong, standing in front of Tom Sawyer Island. Her black shock of hair shines in the saturated sunlight and despite being in the happiest place on earth, she does not look happy. Where is the sunshine?
As she tells it, the sunshine was not present that day because, and I quote here, “He got my sister a lollipop and I didn’t.” Two things, Blue. One, thank God you are not a girl. Two, you see the origin story now? A lollipop. She didn’t get a lollipop and that wasn’t fair, and she’s held it with her ever since. Every opportunity to make things right is a chance at this redemption.
Fast forward a few decades. We’re up in Seattle on a baby moon trip the summer before you arrived. We’re in Pike’s Place market, heading down an alley filled to the brim so densely with flowers that the light in the hall turns magenta. We pass by The First Ever Starbucks, the guys that throw fish across a room, and a dozen produce stands hawking apples and dragonfruit side by side.
We order sandwiches and sit down. I have a tri-tip sandwich and your mother has a fancy salad. Even though we’re sitting outside in a park, it’s fancy because it has berries. She also has a small bouquet of flowers from the hallway we just exited.
Across the sidewalk, she spies a little girl holding her mother’s hand, walking away from the labyrinth of flowers. Even though she’s walking away, her head is turned back the other, her eyes scanning the room full of all those flowers her hands do not possess. This is what your mother sees. I see just a sad girl.
That’s part of her gift. The empathy. The ability to feel what others feel. To know what it’s like to be in a place full of something and not have a little piece of that something to take home with you.
But it doesn’t stop there, Blue. Anyone can have empathy. Anyone can say, “Oh man, that little girl is sad. I understand how she feels.” What makes your mother special isn’t that. That’s not where the sunshine comes from.
It comes from this.
After your mother sees that the girl is sad and recognizes what she wants, she looks over at me, says, “I’ll be back in a minute,” pulls a flower out of her bouquet, walks over to the girl, and hands it to her. Instantly, the rain clouds on the little girl’s face start to break apart as the sunshine begins to shine out the girl’s unencumbered smile.
You know, The Sunshine.
Your mother made that happen. We’re lucky to have her, Blue.