When there’s talk about love in my family (and that includes my extended family of numerous cousins, aunts, uncles, and honorary family members), it’s rare not to hear my parents, Becky and Ian, mentioned. I was five when my father passed away, but his memory—and the memory of their love story—has been kept alive through the family grapevine and my mom’s own stories of her past.
Growing up, my siblings and I were always asking my mom for stories about Daddy—and we weren’t alone. My cousins would also ask for “Tito Ian stories” when they came over, especially when they grew old enough to start worrying about their own love lives. “Tell us about the trip you and Tito Ian took to Italy,” one would say. “Tell me about how you broke it off with your French boyfriend after you decided Daddy was the one,” I would beg. These stories were part of my mom’s repertoire of bedtime tales, and we all relished her retellings.
Having been deeply in love with my father, my mom has always promoted romantic love for my siblings and me. Even today, she is quick to dole out advice based on her own experience and her knowledge of us whenever asked. My teenage years were speckled with heart-to-heart talks with her that I found embarrassing at the time, yet endearing when I look back at these memories.
For example, Mom used to encourage me to date. “It’s natural to be attracted to someone, especially when you’re a teenager,” she used to say. She’d ask me about whether I had crushes at school or even who I found cute from the TV shows and movies. She kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to go to my high school prom stag. One particular memory is of one of our one-on-one girl talks when I was 13 or 14. My mom took me to a posh hotel, bought me lunch at the open-air café, and got down to business. “Liana,” she told me in all seriousness. “I’m worried about you. I’m worried because I’m not worried about you! You don’t have a boyfriend, so I’m not worrying you are doing things with him you shouldn’t be doing yet. You don’t go out to discos, so I never have to worry about where you are at night. I’m not sure this is normal!” I was horribly embarrassed and didn’t quite know how to tell her that, at the time, the only guys I was interested in were fictional ones like Gilbert Blythe and Jonathan of Conte, and that I was sorry, but discos had gone out with the ‘70s. I always found it funny that, while my friends’ parents were busy forbidding them from dating, my mom was all for young love. (But then again, if this was really her way of practicing reverse psychology, I’d have to admit that it was absolutely brilliant.)
Anyway, in my last blog entry, I talked about the parenting advice many of my cousins and friends ask of me because of my upbringing as a child of an admittedly very awesome mother. But that’s not the only thing they ask me about. They ask me about love too. And while the past several years have given me experiences of my own to draw from, there’s a lot I still take away from the lessons I learned from my mom.
(Photo used with permission from Rebecca Pestaño-Smith. All photos in slide show used for illustrative purposes only.)