* My belated Mothers’ Day post. This essay has actually been posted in my older blogs and had appeared on the Inquirer many years ago so some of you may have read it before. But the message remains the same. 🙂
Perhaps, it’s because of the fact that I just got a phone call from my high school best friend that she’s giving birth to their firstborn baby in a few months’ time that I suddenly have this urge to write about mothers, motherhood, and that single most important female in my life right now: my mom.
Not that I haven’t written anything about her in the twenty two years since my umbilical cord was cut from her. In fact, I’ve written dozens upon dozens of essays, poems, and whatever little trinket I could produce in my waking moments, most of which were written when I was the angsty teenager in the house. You bet, they were mostly her daily hate mail. And I, the avid writer.
You see, living with my mother is like living with a policeman 24/7. You have the right to remain silent…anything you say or do may be and will be taken against you. She’s always on-duty, always on the lookout to catch you doing something against her Rule 101 book. And I was fast becoming her most-wanted rule-breaker.
A good thing it would have been if there was a court of law to hear my case, as I would have loved to defend myself. There was, but the bad thing is, my mother was also the judge. My father was just like the court stenographer or the bailiff. So you see, even before I could be declared legally an adult, I was already pronounced guilty as charged many times over.
It was like having someone constantly breathing down my neck, literally and figuratively. She reads my mail, eavesdrops on my phone calls, and even digs under my mattress for my diary! Talk about privacy. She knows my secrets and remembers them better than I do!
And I absolutely hated the way she would invariably lecture on the perils of having a crush (take note, not boyfriend) at such a young age when I was already in high school. And if she ever found a piece of my notebook with a guy’s name on it, she’ll go berserk and once, even threatened to go down to the guy’s house! (Now I know why I never had a boyfriend!) For her, it was like losing your virginity already!
But what I remember most in her rulebook is that back in high school, I had to be home by five o’clock. Five o’clock p.m. And my class ends at around 4:15 and the school service picks us up at 4:30. If ever I so much as went beyond five ten, the school hotline would be ringing ceaselessly until I got home.
In fact, when I was in college, it became a common joke for my friends to ask me what time my curfew is. Every time we go out, there would always be that punch line of “What time do you have to be home?” And when the phone in my organization’s office would ring at exactly 5pm, I did not have to say it’s for me. They already knew.
And to match her curfew rule, she set this thing about me not being allowed to any school affair that went past six p.m. without a chaperon. When I first heard about it, I was cool. I mean I thought she was going to set me up with one her kumares’ cute sons. Turns out though, she’s chaperon. And my father’s the driver and my siblings are the alalays.
Imagine what it meant for a teenage girl trying to be cool to show up at every prom, gala or dance with her entire family waiting for her at the lobby while she parties. Get the picture?
It’s probably because of her stringent rules that I had a nearly non-existent social life all throughout my school days. It was so hard to set gimmicks with me because then, we would all have to put my schedule into consideration. My friends tried to accommodate it but I soon realized just how much of an adjustment to others being my friend was. Needless to say, I ended up just saying no to avoid all the trouble.
When I hooked up with a couple of my friends a few months after graduation, the first thing they asked was whether I still had a curfew. And when I said no, you should have been there to witness the way their eyebrows nearly hit the ceiling and how their collective “Whats?” and “Reallys?” got everyone within five meters to turn and stare at us. So you see, my mother was also a comedian. She gave me that indelible mark of being the girl with the 5pm curfew and all the jokes that go with it.
And another thing funny with her is the way she pronounces things in English. I mean, I’ve yet to meet someone who says “thank you” the way she does: “tank you.” I tried to correct her hundreds of times but she still insists that it’s the right way. Everytime we go to the mall or some other public place and she starts talking in English, I feel like melting to the ground. It was one of a teenage girl’s worst fears, you know, to be associated with someone who is mortifying to be with in public. I had thought her a stigma that poisons my dreary social life.
I hated it the way she manipulated my closet, from the clothes down to every hair clip. Sometimes, she would buy me ultra-conservative clothes that make me want to choke and sometimes, I end up wearing skimpy outfits that would shame Britney and Christina. I hated the way I know she’s prettier than I am and how she still gets suitors fighting their way to our door even when she’s married for almost twenty-five years to my father and has three kids.
Yes, I hated her. And I wrote her dozens of unsent letters (which she read anyway because I always hid them under my bed or in my pillow) to tell her so. And she never said I word. And I hate her more when, after reading my letter, she would act as if nothing happened but then suddenly stroke my hair.
But what I hated most about her was the way she could make me cry. She can make me cry when I’m happy, sad or angry, and she can make me feel guilty for everything no matter how hard I believe in my innocence. In fact, I must admit that she would have been a good lawyer had she wanted to. She can make even the most hardened criminal own up to their crimes without so much as batting an eyelash.
And I hated her for always being right even when I know she’s wrong and the way she never has to apologize for her mistakes because I end up forgiving her anyway.
There was a time when I nearly ran away from home when she told me she didn’t love me anymore. And when she couldn’t remember my class standing when I graduated. But then, everytime I pack my bags, I would hear her talking to her kumares and telling them how she could no longer find space in our wall to hang up my medals and awards or showing them a newspaper featuring me, even if the print was nearly microscopic. And it was as if she knew what I was thinking. Because every night that I make the attempt to run away, she would come to my room and hug me and just cry.
She never said she loves me. She even told me that she doesn’t. Nor does she call me anak like she calls my sister and brother. I don’t have an explanation for this and sometimes I resent it. But then, she would always tell my siblings to be like me because I’m a good student and a good daughter. And she would secretly tell me that every day she realizes how special how am and how tough I am for putting up with hardships that my younger siblings just couldn’t get the hang of.
I still hate her from time to time. But now I realize that hate isn’t really hate. It’s just an emotion I feel because I love her. It’s an emotion you cannot feel unless you love.
For how can I forget the way she rushed to my school and told my preschools teacher off after she threw a chalk at my head? Or the way she rushed to my aide when the inevitable bullies in high school called me names whenever I ran into them?
And how can I ever forget the way she always takes my side in any argument, helping me to win my battles before telling me that I was wrong in private?
How can I hate her for knowing what’s right and what’s wrong for me? For having that infallible sense of what tomorrow will be like for me?
How can I hate her when everytime I picture her growing old and eventually leaving me, I end up crying and wishing that time would stop so that she, and my papa as well, won’t have to leave me?
I hated her yes, for reasons that seemed so right then and yet so absurd now when I think of it. Funny, because I hated her for the very reasons I love myself. Because I know I’m just like her.
I love gossip just like she does. I love talking on the phone when I’m at home and listening to music all day while munching on chips. I love shopping until the malls close and you’re left to exit through the employees’ door. I love talking to plants as if they could hear and looking at the stars and wishing on as many as I could. And I love heart-wrenching movies and books just like she does.
I don’t understand her and I do not think I will. How can I, when I can’t understand myself most of the time? Any amount of wisdom I may achieve probably won’t give me a perfect insight into how her mind and her heart work. I don’t expect it at all. I don’t think any daughter, or son for that matter, can ever fully understand their mothers. But I doubt if any child can say that he would be better off without their mothers. Because, though I may have hated her, and still do from time to time, I know I am. And I cannot imagine being without her.
When I was a small kid and my mom went to work abroad, we had this theme song by Menudo. I remember that I would wave at all the planes flying above me and shout “Ba-bay Mama!” and then I would press the record button on the tape recorder and sing “If you’re not here, by my side…” That was way back in 1985. And it still brings tears to my eyes.