The other day I had a snafu at the post office. I used the wrong kind of mailer for the package I was sending and had already affixed the printed postage. The post mistress kindly found an old box, cut the address label from the old mailer and taped it to the box. The box was clearly reused and a little rough around the edges. I like to mail my products in neat and tidy parcels; after all, presentation is everything. Right!? At that moment I didn’t have time to make any changes, so off it went. A part of me (the perfectionist) cringed, but since there was nothing to be done, the practical me shrugged and moved on.
I grew up believing what my mother preached: regardless of your station in life, one must always look presentable and dress to the best of your ability when in public. Since I understand the world visually, what something looks like had/has been supremely important. Marrying and raising children has taught me to relax these standards (somewhat). The stress involved in attaining perfection is not worth the stress!
My mother had another reason for looking respectable and put together: coming from a poor family and being dark skinned, I believe, made her feel that there should be no quarter for doubting her worth in a caste-influenced system that judged you by your appearance. She was the first woman in her family to study in university in Santo Domingo and became certified as a pharmacist.
When we immigrated to New Jersey, she could not practice pharmacy there as foreigners were not allowed to do so. She instead studied and passed the board exam for New York—where it was allowed. My memory of those times is my mother in a presentable looking wig so she didn’t have to deal with fixing her hair(!), and exhausted parents.
After a a few more years of working in New York and harsh northeastern winters, our family returned to the Dominican Republic where she established her own pharmacy. It was a long slog, as any small business owner will tell you, but it was home turf and eventually it became profitable. She came full circle, but was now in a different ring. She encountered many ugly packages, if you will, but was able to extract the good thing from it. It is from her that I learned that Beauty is the synergy of elements.
Resilience, grit, patience, humor, charm—these got her through those tough times. Chances are YOUR mother has some of these (or other) qualities too. Thank her for it all if you can. Mother’s day is everyday.
By the way, in November she turned 90 and she still makes sure her outfit is coordinated.