Thursday, April 24, 2008
my friend chevon in one of her rants while bickering with her boyfriend stav said, ‘mothers are sacred’.
recently, i started to wonder if my belief about my mother, like anything i hold sacred, has been warped by myth, romanticism and selective memory. the last one was possibly most potent as it was fuelled by homesickness.
having been out of the country for seven years, i suddenly find myself living with my mother, something i haven’t done for 18 years. re-assimilating to my own country has not been as tough as i thought it would be except that everybody i have held dear have become familiar strangers. their lives that once i cannot dilineate from mine have become topics for conversations. i am offered glimpses of interesting scenes turned into anecdotes, but they are no longer mine to share. and live. not the way they used to be. everybody has moved on, except – my mother.
this has offered a great deal of comfort. until i started to find myself getting annoyed by little things she say or do.
on a taxi on the way to the mall in one of our many shopping expeditions, for instance, she mentioned nonchalantly that a cousin of mine is not paying our shared domestic helper enough. she said it without compunction, that i had to remind her that something like that can really offend a person. and this is a cousin who actually likes her. i couldn’t reconcile this with the mother who i remember once told me, ‘if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything.’
many times in the last couple of weeks, she has made face about suggestions of my brothers on restaurants because she did not like the food in all of them. when we were little, i remember that she always reminded me that ‘you should not waste a single grain of rice because each grain corresponds to a bead of perspiration of a farmer who tilled it.’ how can the same person dismiss so much food so haphazardly?
most bothering of all, in our ritual trip to the salon to get our hair done, she raised her nose to my hairstylist who have committed the mistake of being too familiar by telling her bawdy jokes and calling her ‘mommy’. i had the sinking feeling that it was his social standing (read: parlorista) as much as the unearned familiarity that caused her disapproval. but this was a woman who until recently had been maltreated even by her closest relatives because my father was never really good at earning money. she had suffered the shorter end of the social stick for so long. surely snobbery is something she will not inflict wilfully on another?
this has bothered me so much that today i asked my eldest brother (the keeper of my childhood memories), if was i imagining things when i have always believed that my mother taught us everything that is good in us.
my brother was convinced that it was my father, hallowed post-mortem, who said all these things i attributed to my mother.
being the tactless me – i asked this in front of her. i expected her to protest, or at least show disappointment in the face of the doubts of her most precious golden boy. instead she said calmly, ‘maybe it was your father’.
that’s the thing about my mother, anytime i start to muster ammunition to shoot her down from her pulpit, she says or does something that makes me want to hold my head down in shame.
and, like many times before, i held my head down. way down.
my partner jp told me that my biggest problem is that i set such high expectations on everybody and everything. he said it’s the reason why i am disappointed all the time.
and this is it really, the reason i came back. i’m all burned-out from disappointment in what i believe in, in what i have accomplished and in the people i depend on. i have lost faith.
so i lash out at my mother.
it’s not my mother’s fault that out in africa and in moments of weakness, my longing for home have led me to draw strength on the idea of a mother worthy of being put on an altar. and yet, inspite of her flawed humanity – she has shown no resistance or apparent animosity to a child who blatantly challenges the verity of the values she has instilled.
i was nervous about going home tonight. i was thinking that while i did not see any negative reaction earlier to my thoughtless questioning, maybe she had time to think about it and decided i should be banished to another country for all eternity.
when i arrived at midnight, she woke up and showed me the new expensive spectacles we bought – i can’t wait for it earlier because i was late for an appointment with my personal trainer. she was so happy about her new purchase. she poured me my iced tea. and we watched the end of ‘dear heart’ on the filipino movie channel - i remember it quite fondly from childhood. then she said goodnight and i started writing.
between the second and third paragraph my lighter died on me. i was rummaging through the whole house looking for a match. creative writing cum confessional requires cigarettes, lots of it. i was desperately and unsuccessfully lighting the gas stove when she woke up. she looked at me, went back to her room and handed me a box of matches.
i took a drag before i write this last sentence and exhaled fully thinking, i was right. i did not know my mother. but maybe not in the way i thought i was.