The strangest thing seems to be happening as I grow older. I am beginning to understand you. And as I understand you, I realise that in many ways, I am beginning to understand myself.
I understand, Momma, that you are not perfect, even though I expect you to be. When you fail, my ideas of what should, and shouldn’t be, come crashing down. And I struggle. I struggle to forgive you for making mistakes, and for throwing me into an abyss of confusion.
And yet, when I do begin this process of forgiving you, Momma, I realise that in actuality, I am forgiving myself. Forgiving myself for the expectations that I’ve placed upon myself and my need for perfection.
I understand, Momma, that you have your own desires and wishes that, increasingly, are so separate, and yet so similar, to mine. We are not the same person, Momma, I keep telling you. We do not want the same things. We will lead different lives (I will be sure to see to that, I mutter under my breath sometimes). And yet. I see you in me, Momma. In the way that I am absolutely competent in handling a crisis, and terrible at being vulnerable. In how I react in anger, when actually, I’m reacting in fear, just like you. We are different Momma, in that you are fast to cry, and fast to laugh. I am slow to do both, and when I do start, I am slow to stop.
I see you in the way my legs are built, and the way that my nose is shaped, Momma. You told me that the first thing you did when I was born, was to check if my left hand was deformed, just as yours is. You said you felt relieved when you realised it wasn’t. Most days, Momma, I forget you have a deformed hand. If anything, I like your deformed hand, because the jewellery you wear on that hand fits me perfectly. What’s yours is mine, isn’t it, Momma?
You taught me the important things, Momma. You taught me that being a woman is both glorious and terrifying; that there was no stopping a woman (no matter what the world said); that having a house is very different from having a home (and that one meant more than the other); that your dignity and self-respect is yours and nobody else’s; that love is a universe and a prayer at the same time. The things I don’t agree with you on Momma, like your temper, and your fastidious cleaning, your inability to cook, and your tendency to take things far too personally, are also lessons for me, because I want to be better, gooder, more wholesome, more.
So, on this day, Momma, I salute you, first, as a human being, as a woman, as an individual separate from me with your own –isms, and then, and finally, (some might say even most importantly), as my mother. I am glad to have met you, and proud to know you, and blessed, to love you.