Mother’s Day is typically a joyous time filled with flowers and picture-perfect Hallmark images – yet, there is a hole in my chest from not sharing this bliss.
While most of the world rejoices at the opportunity to celebrate their creator, I often suffer from the affliction of rejection from my own. My mother is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, but our complex relationship left this holiday feeling anything but enjoyable. When the memory of her leaving me becomes too much, I recall a time my tiny hands painted made-with-love Mother’s Day arts and crafts. Enthralled as ever, I’d tuck each ornament away between the pastel garments in my drawer, counting the seconds until I could proudly hand them over to my mami. It was a moment my mother felt like mine.
Life happened. Eons of turmoil, ceaseless tears from a mother-daughter divide and a sword I couldn’t seem to free my back of is what I reflected on my last Mother’s Day. What do you do on a holiday honoring mothers when you feel like you can’t reach out to your own? The all-consuming sting eventually left me numb. Every girl needs her mom, but every girl doesn’t grow into a woman with confidence in her architects’ love.
Still, to me, my mother is a woman who embodies everything anyone needs, but, like most of us, she is flawed. Men served as a vice. As I watched her stumble through her younger relationships while a marriage with colorful pages became dark chapters, I wanted nothing more than for her to be at peace. When her fairytale didn’t conclude in happily-ever-after, I internalized how maybe I was her downfall. I am her first-born, twin-mannered baggage, which she hauled into matrimony and wasn't ready for.
Separation is an unfortunate, yet common finale to a marriage, but nothing prepared me for what life had in store at 16 years old: witnessing my mother’s four children each part ways into separate homes. I felt like I didn’t shield them enough. Although I am not a parent, being the eldest, somehow, made me feel accountable. Not to mention, many of our parents’ hardships were visible to me, solely, because I “could handle it,” even though emotionally I was barely holding on.
From the moment we all separated, holidays were never the same. Mami began seeing my biological father’s younger brother, and I was devastated by her audaciousness. The irony was, prior to this revelation, he was my favorite uncle. My tio was my confidant, and the only person fully aware of what took place in our home. This made it difficult to trust anyone. My lack of acceptance for my mother’s new boyfriend came with drawbacks. Arguments turned into altercations, altercations into resentment and, eventually, silence became easier for her than staring in the mirror. She was fighting for my submission, and I was battling to keep my mother. We both failed.
Mami and I reached our breaking point. Our unforgiving relationship made her attempt to send me off to my biological father, but he declined, assuming she wanted to be closer to his brother in Las Vegas. By 17, she saw me go to college and flew out West, where she has been ever since. Although I am the oldest, her leaving hit me the hardest – I considered it running away. My younger siblings remained on the East Coast and managed to keep their bond with her nearly unscathed. However, I struggled to move past her betrayal as I found my place in the world.
Over the last decade, our interaction hasn’t been steady. There is no set technique or timeline on how to cope. A couple years with zero communication passed, and last Mother’s Day, I began wrapping my mind around the fact that she and I may not ever speak again. But we only get one mother, so I reached for her information through relatives.
You don’t get to choose your family, but for a chance at having her, I'd live through it again. As I grew older, so did my empathy. I don’t make excuses for her, but perhaps my mother did what she could for me. The harsh reality is that she was a child with a child. Maybe she was overwhelmed. Maybe she didn’t know how to nurture me. Maybe she needed someone to be there for her the way I want her now. I’ve pondered on reasoning a thousand times, and I may never truly understand. It wasn’t my decision to make back then.
Healing hasn’t been linear, but I don’t want to go another Mother’s Day wondering where she is. All the memories missed are bittersweet, but this year, on that celebrated day, she can expect a call from me.