Today’s Generous Soul post is about Aunt Rita. Everyone needs an Aunt Rita.
When the twins were a day old, my husband’s Aunt Rita sent an edible bouquet to the doctors and nurses who took care of them. Rita claims that it was just an ordinary flower arrangement, but the nurses described luscious blossoms cut from pineapples. They swear that they had never seen anything like it. They still gush about the bouquet that was devoured in twenty minutes.
Why would anyone bother to thank people for doing their jobs? I wondered. I wouldn’t have bothered. Not on Day One in the NICU when the boys still had a hundred more days to go.
I was the mother who wasn’t ready to care yet, the one dancing in the “why bother” space. I didn’t stay there, of course. NICU life is too demanding. One moment you are carefully cultivating emotional distance, the next you are in awe of the wonders of technology and the strength of tiny humans. Then a machine with flashing lights beeps. Panic and confusion attack the room like emotional ghosts. Finally, the machines stop beeping and your son starts breathing, turning you back again to awe.
Rita’s bouquet did not affect the way the doctors and nurses cared for my babies. It did, however establish the nurses’ perception of me. They saw me as gracious, generous, and optimistic. They saw me as a mother from those urban legends who lifts cars to rescue her children and never has a shred of doubt. The one who notices everything and appreciates everyone.
They mistook me for my aunt.
We imagine that our identities get molded in our minds and that’s what we project as we traipse about in the world. But in actuality, our identities are formed for us. What people believe about you shapes who you become.
I was set to start each day in the “why bother” place and ready to retreat back into it each evening. But because Rita’s gift arrived in the NICU before I did, no one ever treated me as if I were a mother who could not yet care. And so I never acted like one.
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