Visiting my mother

Last week was my mom’s birthday, and I took the train down to Toronto to spend a few days with her. When I was going, spending eight days straight with her seemed like a lot of time, but now in hindsight, I feel it was too short. This is the paradox I always find myself in after a trip to Toronto to see mom – when I’m leaving it seems like there’s enough time for us to catch up and have our fill of one another, but after coming back I wish I could have stayed longer.

My mother and I have a unique relationship, but I think every daughter thinks that way about her mom. I don’t know if too many daughters take psychedelics in the form of mushroom tea with their moms, and then have a heart-to-heart therapy session about their lives, but it’s one of the activities mom and I occasionally engage in when we’re together. She mentioned a few times on this recent trip that we could do it, but since my brother and sister were often around at her apartment, we didn’t find the opportunity to indulge.

I make it a point to see my mom at least once every 3-4 months. If I can’t go down to Toronto, I convince her to make a trip to Ottawa, even if it’s just for the weekend. She’s a workaholic and needs to really pull herself away from her work in order to do anything else, but she always manages to make time to see me. She too feels like the time we spend together isn’t enough, and sends me WhatsApp messages for a few days after I come back about how much she misses me and loves me. The feeling is mutual.

The truth is though, I’m glad we don’t live in the same city, or so close that we could regularly see each other. It’s strange to feel that way, considering we both experience “withdrawal” after we part from one another. But that’s what makes our trips together so exciting and fun – because we know we have a limited amount of time, we make the most of it and have every moment we spend in each other’s company count. She takes time off work (which is a huge thing for her), I book time off my work and wrap up any writing I need to get done before seeing her, and I try to make a trip on my own without Sai so there’s no need for mom to put up the pretenses that come with being the “mother-in-law”. She and Sai get along great and enjoy each other’s company too, but I know my mom can’t fully be herself when he’s around. I notice a difference in her even when my siblings are around. Who she is when it’s just me is a different person. So I make sure when it’s us, it’s just us and she can be comfortable and relaxed to be who she wants to be, to say what she wants to say, and to do what she wants to do.

We both know we need each other, and the role we play in each other’s lives can’t be fulfilled by anyone else. It sounds obvious to say that, considering the biological bond we share. But to me, it goes beyond “I need her ‘cause she’s my mom.” She’s also a kind of therapist to me, and I to her. She’s also my friend, which used to seem kind of pathetic and creepy to me when I was in my 20s, but I can’t deny that the relationship I have with my mother crosses over in many ways to the realm of friendship as well. We talk about our sex lives, the great deals we found on clothes and shoes, a new cafe or bar we recently discovered, and the perils of being women (single and married). She asks for my advice about meeting new men, and I ask her about navigating expectations in a marriage. She has a lifetime of experience and wisdom I can learn from, and I have an insight to womanhood and independence that, till recently, she didn’t have the luxury of enjoying. We talk about my dad and their marriage, how his death has affected us, and the lingering trauma we both still carry, inflicted on us by him. She asks me things she could never get herself to ask anyone else in the world, and I tell her things about myself I could never tell anyone else either. No wonder we both need to see each other every few months!

This summer, mom and I are traveling to Pakistan together for a month, and we started planning what we want to do there. The last time I travelled to Pakistan alone with mom, I was 15, and we went for only 2 weeks. This time we’re going to explore the northern, mountainous regions of Pakistan. Growing up in Pakistan, travelling to the north with my family in the summers was the highlight of my youth, and my mother has extremely fond memories of it too. Pakistan is a hugely underrated gem in terms of natural beauty, but the security situation there makes it hard to travel to the more remote areas – and if you’re a woman travelling alone, forget about it.

We looked up tours and travel packages that’ll take us to where we want to go. I’ve been wanting to revisit that part of Pakistan for the past few years but didn’t know how I would make it happen since I don’t really know anyone there who’d be willing to travel with me. It just so happened that this year, things came together and we were able to book our flights and find dates that worked for both mom and I. Thinking about going to that part of Pakistan with my mom makes me absolutely giddy, like a little girl! There are so many memories I hope to share with her from my childhood in those areas, and I know she has a lifetime of memories to share with me as well. I can’t wait to get to the Shangri-La Resort in Skardu, surrounded by mountains and clear skies, row out a boat into a lake with my mom, and feel as though my life has come full circle. And the only person in the world who could fully grasp the importance and significance of that would be right there with me in the boat too.