I don't know who I am because my mother does not know who she is
My mother was never really a part of her mother, except in flesh and bone. My mother’s mind has always told her she belonged among the greenest of mounds, amongst women with head coverings. My mother is not pious or soft spoken. She is loud and filled with imagination.
She was born on the sixth day of the twelfth month and the woman who helped birth her stole something from her.
“Empuja”, she says to my sixteen yr old grandmother. “Empuja”.
Out came my wailing mother with the umbilical cord hung across her chest like a sash. This is a sign of power. A gift handed down to my mother by our ancestors. A gift to heal and to see before things are done. It is known that birth helpers, the greediest of their kind, steal newborns power as a payment for their help and so, my mother’s power was stolen from her.
Many things were stolen from my mother at such a young age. At the age of 5, she was left in the care of her uncle, a man whose belly was large like a sea animal care. My grandmother, his elder sister, went off to work at the family pollería. My mother was sitting on the floor watching TV when this whale of man sat on the couch behind her. She forced to hear his moaning and hard breathing on her ears. She told my grandmother what had happened and my grandmother scolded her for telling horrible stories.
It was then that a wall was built between them. No matter what either one said to each other, it never came out to be understood the way it was intended to be understood. This great wall extended down to me.
“Tú madre siempre dice muchas cosas mala di mi”, my grandmother tells me over our weekend lunch meet. Growing up my brothers and I spent every weekend at her bungalow house in Caged Park. Now that we are older, we go once a month, if any. This is the first weekend I’ve been to her house since my mother and I got into an argument.
“Mom, I need your help”, I tell my mother over the phone. I've never asked any help from my mother since my parents’ divorce. My brothers and I had an unspoken agreement that my father will always be held accountable for everything in our lives and the only time we are to call on our mother was for support we could not trust our father with, like paperwork that would include our home addresses.
“Mom, would you be able to cosign with me for a car?” There was a moment of silence on her end of the line but it's always like this with her. She works night shifts so she is always asleep when I call. There is always a possibility that she may have drifted back to sleep.
“Mom are you there.”
“Yeah, I’m here Mar”, she's says to me. She sighs after my name, as if I am a bother, as if she always needs to help me.
“You see mom. The car share service we use has become too much of a hassle now with Belen”. Belen is Apollo’s and I daughter, our second child. With Solin, our first born, we had rented cars and lugged around his car seat but lugging two car seats, one for a 2yr old and one for our newborn Belen, was too much. We decided our little family needs a car.
“Mom, I don't have enough credit to buy a car and since I’m the sole provider I would need to be the main buyer. I would need a cosigner to help and I hoped you could help me.” Another sigh on the line. I hoped it would just be my mother breathing hard on the phone since she most likely was lying it across her cheek since she was still lying down.
“Mom, I have a good job and I’m responsible. I’ve been taking care of my family and I’ve never asked for your help before and I would never ask for it unless I absolutely needed it”. I pleaded as if I knew my mother would mistake my asking for her help as an invitation for her ruin. My mother always thought bad things about words. As if the intentions of words were not as clear. Like asking for water at night. It was not because you are thirsty, no matter how much you pleaded that it was true. She still only believed that it was because you refuse to go to sleep and you are trying to manipulate her by hiding your true intentions behind the word of thirst.
“Please don't misinterpret what I am about to say to you now”, she says to me over the phone. This time she sounds awake, not tired and distant like earlier. “I cannot do that for you”, she says. “I'm sorrrrry”. She says sorry with a hard Spanish R as if to highlight how truly sorry she is but I, being my mother’s daughter, and she being hers, hear this as her wanting to have me suffer for no reason. This thought is securely planted in my mind when she says, with a hint of anger, of distrust in me, “why don't you ask your suegra for help?”
I live in Apollo’s parents’ house. After three years, Apollo and I got married. I always felt the time for us to move out of his childhood home was near so I began to collect items for our new place. My sister in laws warned me not to buy anything since my taste in items could easily change once we purchased our home but, the items I bought weren’t items attached to trends. They were items that reminded me of the best times in my childhood.
My parent’s first house was in Avondale on a street called Fletcher. It was a beautiful sky blue family home with a small garden in front. I was 10 yrs old. My mother’s job was taking care of us and maintaining our home while my father worked night shift at a factory in Aurora that made buckets.
I remember our mom singing in the kitchen while she cooked our food and my brothers and I watched TV like the new Mario Bros movie being shown for the first time on the regular TV networks. She would beckon us into the dining room located within the kitchen to eat our dinner. Our plates were of funky designs. Plastic for my young brothers and a glass plate with blue intricate flowers for me. If we ate our dinner without any protest she would serve us ice cream sundaes in 1950-style boats and cups. It's as if we were transported into little sundae shops from those times.
My mother was 19 when she came to America and even before then, she was not a traditional Mexican women. My mother was independent minded and always disagreed with her mother. She listened to Pop Rock en Español like Meccano and when she felt a romantic longing, she would listen to Jeanette and other European singers who sang in Spanish. My mother was more open minded than my grandmother.