Happy Mother's Day. When you're a child, your mother is Super Woman: she takes you everywhere, bathes, dresses, and feeds you, fixes your hurts - and seems to have eyes in the back of her head. As you grow older you begin to see cracks in the shiny armor in which your imagination clad her and perhaps it tarnishes a little. When you become a parent yourself, she is Mother Wisdom in your eyes, someone who knows everything about babies.
None of these incarnations are entirely true, of course. Mothers are human beings with strengths and frailties just the same as everyone else. Some have motherhood thrust upon them as a surprise and struggle to cope as a small wriggling screamer is laid in their arms. Others have prior experience and it's all old hat.
But one thing is certain: you mother influences your life like no other being on the planet. Whatever your relationship is or was with your mother colors your outlook. When you realize this, you can then seriously consider what you want to keep and what you may need to change.
|Rosemary Olivas Johnson (R) circa 1944|
I spoke Spanish as a child but that was drummed out as soon as I started school at first grade. Grade school Spanish was that of Spain not Mexico and the words I knew were dismissed as "peon." ( I can still see my third-grade Spanish teacher's puckered up, sour-lemon face when I told her my name most certainly was not Cochita -- because that meant pig...) American culture back then had no room for hyphens: we weren't Mexican-Americans, there were no African-Americans or Asian-Americans or whatever. We were supposed to be Wonder Bread-eating, Stars and Stripes Forever, plain old Americans. Which wasn't really a bad thing to hope for as an ideal: that all Americans were Americans first. Reality being something vastly different of course.
Now I see the similarities between my mother's life and my own. She left the barrio and her family behind - I left the East and Wonder Bread ways to embrace my heritage in the town she abandoned. She had little to no contact with her siblings; neither do I. She had a few close women friends; so do I. But where she was not permitted to be her own woman, I am more than fiercely independent. I watched what she went through, how hard she worked for little appreciation, and vowed that would not be my way.
Yet what she taught me with rules and consequences, respect and manners, has forged me into the mom I became with my son. And I can only hope to emulate what a loving and giving grandmother she became. (Just not too soon, okay?)
Feliz Dia de Las Madres. Happy Mother's Day.