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Wealthy! A tribute to a mother

By Kirti Patel Email By Kirti Patel
May 2009
Wealthy! A tribute to a mother

My mom was only twenty-three when she had me. I don’t think that at twenty-three I would’ve been able to handle being a mother or do it well.

But my mother, by that age, was very well-prepared. She grew up in a little farming village in India. They had little money and very few possessions. I remember her telling me that every day after they came home from school, they had to wash the one pair of school clothes they had so they could wear them again the next day. She was the eldest child out of a brood of eight — three girls and five boys. My grandmother’s first and best helper, she even starting school late because she was needed to help at home.

As the oldest, she had a special place in their household. She was considered everyone’s favorite, especially my grandfather’s. When she finally did start school, she did very well. And though they couldn’t really afford it, her family decided to send her to college, even borrowing money to pay for her tuition. I find that so amazing. I think it was very progressive for a family back then to go through such pains to put their daughter through college, especially with so many other children at home, including boys. Most of her contemporaries were getting married off. She was the only one in her family that did end up going to college.

It was there that she met my father and married. Soon after, they had me. Early in their marriage, my father had the opportunity to come to America to work. My mother and I joined him when I was about a year old.

As I was growing up, I remember thinking my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She had big eyes, high cheekbones and a slender, elegant frame. I always wished I looked more like her, but everyone usually said I looked more like my dad, which, I have to admit, is true.

My mother was a hard worker. She had a full-time job, even when we were little, and also ran the household. Even though my dad had learned to live on his own for a year before she came to America, once she arrived, she took it upon herself to do most of the cooking and cleaning.

She was always such a passionate person—a typical Aries—outspoken, fearless, and energetic. We often butted heads when I was a teenager and she once told me, “I hope you have a daughter who’s just like you!” I always find it ironic that we all share birthdays in April now: my mother, my daughter and I are all fiery Arians. She got her wish, I guess.

She taught me so many things over the years, like how to cook and put on a sari and speak in my native tongue. I often worry that I can’t possibly give my children all the gifts she’s given me.

I’ve admired her for so many reasons over the years: her beauty, her intelligence, her hard work and ambition. But the thing I most admire her for is her generosity.

My whole life I’ve watched her give things away. If someone—even a person she barely knows—admires something she’s wearing, she’s the type of person who will take it off and give it to them on the spot. All her siblings, too, are exceptionally generous. I can’t tell you how many times they’ve pressed money into my palm when I was a kid, for some reason or other, or for no reason at all. Even now, as an adult, I find them trying to give me or my children money and gifts all the time.

What is it that makes them all so generous? I think that it must have something to do with how poor they were as children. They don’t live in fear of losing money because early in life, they didn’t have much to begin with. They have survived, and even thrived, and know it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they didn’t have it anymore.

Just like everyone, these days, I worry about my job, my home, my savings. I wonder what the future holds. But then I think of my mother and her family that did so much with so little and I think, I too, will survive no matter what. If I have my health, my mind, and my family—well, there is nothing I won’t be able to do.

Thank you, mom, for the wealth of spirit you’ve given me. Rich or poor, I will always be wealthy.

[Kirti is a wife, mother of two, a practicing Ob/Gyn, and a writer who is working on her first novel. To read more of her work, visit her blog at: http://kirtipatelmd.blogspot.com]

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