Mommy was there but wasn’t. She was always a provider. She worked really hard all the time to give us the necessities. At home there was no extra. We ate every day but there was never things like cookies, or treats. As kids we went to the usual Seven Lakes and Coney Island, the occasional Boricua festivals in Red Hook. Everything was kept on the hush from us and as we were growing up if we caught on it was just changed into another way of doing shit so that we the kids couldn’t notice.
Mommy wasn’t there for us emotionally. She had a severe hand and gave out backslaps and beatings on the regular. Emotional to her was you can do better or is that it. She was proud of us when we went to the next grade and it was rewarded with a few dollars. When we did our catholic passages (Communion, Confirmation) she threw the party and next day things went back to normal. It wasn’t really a big celebration. After a certain age there were no more birthday cakes. Just a hug and that was it. Mom was very attached to getting her goals done which were, again, the basic. Rent, groceries, bills paid. Everything else was extra and was spent on the ever occasional pernil or pork chops cause if we were eating that then shit was good at home. Yes when the holidays rolled in we had the full on dinners of pasteles and pernil with arroz con gandules but getting older even Christmas’ were not the same. As a matter of act her biggest moments of affection was when we would get sick. Then came the constant touch of her hand or her amazing chicken soup.
Mommy wasn’t the one to give advice with a loving touch or whisper. If she had to tell you something it was usually crass and said rudely. Like not taking her advice will result in your downfall and if that happens JODETE!!!!
In my core I do know that she loved us but in her manera, her way. She fought for us and at times never gave up on us. I look back and can say it couldn’t be easy raising 3 boys alone and one of them is a gay child that went through all the phases from dressing up like a girl to then an addict to then a grown man. Not once did I hear her say get out or leave my home or you’re a piece of shit. It is those moments that I replay in my mind that lets me know that yes there was a genuine love.
She gave what she could and what she knew. She wasn’t a child that was given love at all. Her parents died when she was young and after that she was a burden to whoever she stayed with. She was passed around to any elative that needed a maid or a babysitter. Education wasn’t pushed. She was never allowed to dream and if she did it was shot down immediately with a,”una negra como tu jamas!” This is when I understood why she was the way she was. Why she wasn’t affectionate or pushed us to dream and why education was her biggest thing when we were growing up. It made sense why she worked so much to make sure she never worried from where her meal was coming from or depended on anyone or any man for that matter. No one ever gave her anything when she was a kid. It made sense why she was so strict and heavy on the hands because growing up she was beaten all the time. I totally get it. It doesn’t mean it didn’t affect my upbringing. It doesn’t make the scarring any less painful.
What this realization does is give me a sense of forgiveness. It gives me a huge understanding as to the why. It doesn’t help that she grew up in a time that pain and suffering was never shared, it was never spoken of. She came from a time where weakness was never shown and you learn how to cry dry, no tears. You became numb to shit and never ever crumble at all. It made me understand why the bottle became her best friend.
It made me realize where my fear came from, where my hurt of not being understood came from, where the lack of intimacy came from, where as a teenager my tough exterior to chase people away came from. It put into perspective how I will always have to go back to my childhood when I am healing and getting better with self. How the layers upon layers continue to reveal memories that pop out from a time where I was to numb to realize had happened.
With all this being said I love her. I love my mother because it’s ingrained that without her there is nothing. Even though there was a lot of crazy there was also a lot of great. I take her work ethic everywhere I go because with no education and illiterate she made it. I take her no holds barred attitude that she always showed the world because she was only 5 feet tall. I take her laughter because no matter how bleak and desperate shit got for her she always found time to laugh. I will always love my momma but like I said some days it doesn’t make my realizations hurt any less.