The two women sat across from each other in the cat cafe, mother and daughter both mindful of the disaster of their last encounter. Olivia had chosen a cute cat cafe in Kowloon for them to meet as they both loved cats, and she hoped the calming distraction of the cat cafe’s many resident cats and kittens would help mellow their energies. She regretted the harsh note they had both left their last meeting with, and was quietly hopeful today wouldn’t end the same way.
Fanny broke the silence first, choosing her words carefully as she slowly petted a persian that had plumped itself down on her lap. “I’m sorry if I haven’t been the best mother, and if we didn’t give you the most normal childhood. I was always so committed to my career, and the kids and families I worked with, that I didn’t truly stop to think about whether I was paying the best attention to my own daughter.”
Olivia didn’t disagree with her mother’s admission, but she gently conceded “It can’t have been easy for you though with all those assignments, and the emergency fosters the department sent your way.”
“Yes, but those children weren’t just being sent my way. They were coming into our home, and I should have been more mindful of the effect this would have had on you. You were always just a quiet child, and you’d always retreat into yourself. So I never really paid any attention to your development.”
Olivia chuckled, “Well then can you really blame me for being so invested in charity work, and leaving Canada to come back to Asia? I think I’m actually much more like you than either of us ever realised. I want to help people.”
Fanny shook her head, “It was stupid of me to want to stop you. It’s just...I just wanted you to have a comfortable life so you’d never get into the kind of situations I saw on a daily basis on the job. And with all the difficulties for us to emigrate to Canada, it really pained me that you’d leave so soon before your status in Canada was approved.”
Olivia sighed in regret, “That I have to own up to. I know how important it was for you and dad to leave Hong Kong so you could help him look after his parents in Canada, and I know you only ever meant the best for me. But the opportunity at the NGO came up and I felt that my calling was back here. Hong Kong is Asia’s hub, and to be honest I think there are people on this continent that need my help much more than Canadians do.”
Fanny nodded in agreement, pride swelling at just how similar the two truly were. At the very least, Olivia had learned from her example of wanting to serve society. Fanny only hoped she hadn’t bequeathed her drama too. “I was orphaned quite young, and I worked with broken families. So I didn’t really have any model of being a great parent. But I want us to be able to move on, and put the past behind us. I’m not trying to make excuses for my own failures, but we can’t change the past. I can only apologise for my part in it, and hope we can have a healthier future.”
Olivia couldn’t help but smile as a couple of kittens by their low table tumbled playfully. She’d always wanted to be able to reset her relationship with her mother.
“I’d like that.”
The two women felt at peace.
Food for thought: Why is it important to be able to move on, and to embrace a forward-looking mentality rather than being stuck in the past?