Happy 100th birthday: I love you Mom, thorns and all

betty ming liu Inspiration 12 Comments

Dear Mom,

I used to hate roses because they reminded me of you: beautiful, with dangerous thorns. But when I planted your favorite flower on your 100th birthday, you sent me a sign. Now, I embrace you completely, Mother Dear.

I love you, Mom, thorns and all.

If you were still alive, you would’ve adored shopping for rose bushes at the garden center. Even I enjoyed checking out dozens and dozens of varieties. Inhaling their perfume opened up the old wound of missing you. Has it really been eight years since you passed on from this world?

You were a brave Chinese immigrant. Of course, you were also a control-freakish diva who made me nuts. I get it, though. You suffocated your two daughters with your needs because we’re all you really had. It must’ve been tough, being married to a cheating, drinking husband who popped prescription meds like candy.

As I wandered among the roses, I suddenly saw the purpose in your thorns. They kept hurtful people from getting too close. Thorns defined your boundaries. They kept you safe. Thorns can be a good thing.

I love you, Mom, thorns and all.

My mom

My plan was to get one rose bush. I ended up with five. I chose them based on their scent and looks. But at the check-out, I paused to read the labels with each of their names. The symbolism left me speechless. And I felt your presence. I love you Mom, thorns and all

You’re the Europeana, the double-petaled blossom in deep red, your favorite color.

The name suits you, given the years you spent in Belgium, working on a PhD in chemistry. Your exquisite French accent and elegant dresses made you such a pretty, intelligent snob.

I love you Mom, thorns and all.

Of course, the two pots of wild, climbing roses are Dad. They’re exactly the kind he grew when we lived in Jersey, before moving to Chinatown. How fitting — they’re called Don Juans, named for a famous Spanish guy who seduced women.

Since I’ve been in therapy a million years and am all about self-care, you know I needed roses in my favorite color, too. Can’t make everything about you and Dad, right?

So we have the deep orange Fragrant Cloud. It smells like pure sensuality, spicy and sweet. It’s there for me and Sis.

Then, there’s another purchase just for me. Pale orange petals, streaked in red edges. I was shocked to see that they’re called the Betty Boop. This has to be a sign from you, I’m sure of it.

The Betty Boop

The shopping spree led to a hot, sweaty afternoon of digging up the front yard. And that’s only the beginning.

Planting a rose garden

Like you, roses need pampering. Not too much water or they’ll rot. Lots of sun, around six hours a day. Plenty of space for aeration. Rose care is my new meditation, a way to show I love you Mom, thorns and all.

Guess this means I’m learning to smell the roses.

Happy Birthday, Ma!

~Betty.

I love you Mom, thorns and all

Want to wish my mommy a Happy 100th Birthday? Let her know she’s beautiful, that we embrace the message of her thorns. It’s a hug that celebrates having boundaries, and the belief that we deserve to be loved — and loved well.  Thanks for stopping by!

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Comments 12

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  1. Amy Boaz

    Betty: I have a memoir that might interest you. I have been reading so much about Sherman Alexie’s new memoir about his difficult mother, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. He loved her but there were issues, to say the least. I just read that he had to stop his book touring for this book because his mother is haunting him and making his life hell–from the grave!
    Crazy — loco!

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      betty ming liu

      Patri, I’m glad to hear from you on this issue. The nicest thing is, I wasn’t trying to make anything happen. This lovely rose garden thing just kind of popped into my life and evolved on its own. It feels good to let go of trying to control everything! Thanks for listening and stopping by. :)

  2. Average guy

    You give me so much hope! I am unable to deal with some culturally sensitive issues with my parents. It is so hard to find the right time to have a tough conversation with my parents. My greatest fear is that some of the conversations won’t happen during our lifetime, (their lifetime). Your stories show me that it is pretty okay to not have perfect parental relationship. It isn’t hard to believe a Phd in Chemistry would be racist. I am asian too and my parents openly taught me racism sometime, (they did not consider it racism). Thanks for this post! Congratulations on the new rose garden!

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      betty ming liu

      Average guy, always have hope! Some conversations might not be possible. There were some I tried that just didn’t work. But the conversations continue in my head and heart — so the work is still being done. Thanks for the congrats and congrats to you too — at least you’re thinking about these issues. Not everyone is even willing to do that. You’re already inviting change, which is very powerful.

      And P.S. — Everybody’s racist. I’m dealing with my own crap all the time. :)

  3. Pauline

    Hi Sis! Happy Birthday! You’re story made me laugh. I loved it! I’m afraid that I did the same thing. Only I planted the rose bush when I lived on Long Island AND I had to put my own spin on it by getting pink roses! Yes. They climbed up a trellis too much like the white trellis that we had when we were little. It’s taken me a long time to appreciate the dark red ones. Analyze that!
    Meanwhile, I’ve lost my iPhone, so I can’t call you. I can’t find your number. I sent you an email. I have a borrowed phone, if you could please call it then we can go out to celebrate!

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  4. Sandy

    Loved your roses pics and how they matched each one of your family members.

    Your mom had a PhD in chemistry? Was she able to use it in the U.S. and teach or was she a stay at home mom working in your father’s store or business?

    But, it made it even more difficult for your mother and if you and your sister got out of line in any way during and after your adolescence that must have been doubly painful for her. You are right…roses have thorns for reasons. Mainly to survive. But, they are painful to others trying to do anything but get close enough to smell them. Good luck with your roses. I keep killing the miniature ones in the pots because I leave them sit out in our Kaneohe rain and they get over watered or dried out sometimes if I forget to water on sunny days. Thanks for your blog. I enjoy reading about you, your adventures, and your family.

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      betty ming liu

      Sandy, thanks for sharing your experiences! My mom actually found work in the U.S. as a chemist. She did okay professionally. And I’ve never heard anyone stereotype Asian men as cheaters, lol. I feel like it’s a human condition, with more women having affairs too.Thanks for the heads up about your roses. I’m not sure how it’ll go but it would be so glorious to have a front yard filled with mature roses. :)

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