An Interesting Conversation
So there I was driving to work and hoping I would not be late. In my rush to get an idea posted I grabbed images from ‘pop culture’ or what I always refer to as western culture. ( Jello ) It was as I was driving and feeling a bit lost and confused about it all that I wished my mom was still alive so I could talk to her about it. Was I native-sounding enough? Am I a "real" Aleut? Am I just weird? Imagine my surprise when she suddenly popped into the passengers seat and said “What I always loved about you was your vivid imagination.”
Me: Jesus Christ, Mom, are you trying to make me crash? Don’t do that! You don’t sneak up on people when they are doing 65 miles an hour!
Mom (in angry tone): What did you say?
Me: I said… Oh, sorry, I did not mean to take the Lords name in vain…
Mom: So what has gotten you feeling so lost and confused?
Me: Well, it’s a long story, sort of…
Mom: Yours always are…
Me: Mom, do you think I am native enough?
Mom: What do you mean?
Me: Well, I have been trying to get some stories and stuff like interviews from some other Aleuts and it is slow going.
Me: Um, is that it? “Ah?” I mean, if you are going to pop into my imagination like this you could at least offer a bit more…
Mom: Do you remember when you were a little girl and had a million questions and wanted to know everything about everything?
Me: Well, yes, but I wouldn’t put it so rude sounding.
Mom: Do you remember what I used to say to you?
Me: Sure, you always said you would give it some thought and why didn’t I go play outside while you thought it over.
Mom: And what happened when you came back to talk it over with me?
Me: Well, you said you wanted to get the best answer possible and to play outside some more.
Mom: Maria, think about it. Now that you have your own kids, what do you think I was really saying?
Me: (lost in thought a bit then…) Hey! Mom! I can’t believe you would do me like that!
Mom (laughing): You always loved to read and think about such weird stuff and like it really mattered.
Me (offended): Huh, some things are important, you know, and deserve to be talked about.
Mom: I just mean that not everyone likes to talk about that kind of stuff. Do you remember what your brothers did when you tried to talk to them about this stuff?
Me: Well, I remember I always was fast enough to dodge getting punched in the arm, if that is what you mean…
Me: That always bothered me how much you loved your boys more then us girls! I mean, really, they like country music and football, for Chri.. Um, I mean for gosh sakes.
Mom (turning to look at me fully): I like country music and football, too, you know.
Me: Yeah, I know, but remember you were a prisoner of war and had to deal with all those white people coming and… (hears mom chuckle) Why are you laughing?
Mom: So you think the reason I like football and country music is because of being a prisoner?
Me: Well, yeah.
Mom: And what about a lot of the other Aleuts who also enjoy it?
Me: Well, remember the ill-treatment they received. I mean, if you stop and think about it, how rude was giving books based on the whole cowboy/Indian/how the west was won thing to American Indians like us?
Mom: Remember how I always called you my “Mysterious Cat”, I never fully understood you, you know. Always so fierce about Justice.
Me: Well, what happened was terrible. No one can deny that. But the problem is that they try to pretend it never happened quite that way. It really burns me and I really want to go give them a swift kick in the as… bottoms!
Mom: But you always remember what I taught you about hate and not being rude and lowering yourself to their level. I am so proud of you for that, you know.
Me: Yeah, but Justice would happen a lot quicker for our peoples if, just once, we gave them a good ass-kicking. I mean a good…
Mom (sighing): Yeah, I know what you meant. But remember what I always taught you, that this rudeness and selfishness is not our way. By listening to our hearts the fault lies with them.
Me: Yeah, I know, but I would like things better right now for us.
Mom: So does everyone else living under oppression, dear. Just keep doing what you are doing. Gently show them the error of their ways. Justice is on our side, never forget that.
Me: Did you ever wish you had taught me the language and customs? I really wish I had learned them when I was growing up. It is hard to be an Aleut but not know much about it but what is in my heart.
Mom: But it is your heart that makes you truly an Aleut, you know. Does anyone ever really act like you are not?
Me: Well, no. But it is hard to get stories and interviews and such and I so want to tell our stories to the world.
Mom: I see. Have you told your story? Or mine?
Me: Well, no, not yet, I wanted to wait until I was much better at writing to write yours.
Mom: I see, so you want to practice on your cousins? And you wonder why they hesitate… Ok, so you want to wait for mine but what about your own?
Me: Well, it’s complicated.
Mom: Whenever you say that it usually means you know the reason is wrong but don’t want to admit it, even to yourself sometimes.
Me: Well, its just… I refuse to give them that satisfaction, Mom! To let them see the pain they inflicted. I mean, they know exactly what they have done to us though they try to pretend they don’t.
Mom: I see. And could this be the reason for everyone else’s hesitation too?
Me: Well, maybe. But you think I am a “real” Aleut, right?
Mom: What I think is that you get very excited and eager and maybe rush things. Remember how you raced to 'teach' me every new thing you learned about?
Me: Yeah, like the yoga, you mean? I remember how proud I was when I first managed to sit in the lotus position. I was so happy that I wanted to teach you yoga too. I felt so silly when you said how great it was that I had learned that and sat down and effortlessly put first one foot then the other behind your head and told me to keep practicing and someday I could do this too...
Mom: Yes, that is what I mean. Remember that things that you are discovering about yourself or the world might already be well known to others. I remember you refused to try yoga again for years and years because you felt silly about it. Maybe the best approach would be to try not to 'teach' these things you think and feel and instead try to learn from the elders. It could be they are just waiting for you to be ready finally.
Me (in the voice of Julia Roberts from My Best Friends Wedding) Mom, you unwittingly implied that I am slow!
Mom: I am just saying there is no need to rush, you know. How long have we been here?
Me: Since Time Immemorial.
Mom: Yes, and are we going anywhere?
Me (pulling into driveway at work): Of course not.
Mom: So maybe write your story in your own words and in your own way to start off.
Me (turning off the car): You know, I think I just did... Thanks Mom, I really miss you sometimes!