I struggle with Mother’s Day ever since Mommy passed away, simply because I miss spoiling her on this day. Having grown up in Mexico where Mother’s Day was taken very seriously in the Catholic Schools I attended, this is a holiday that is deeply ingrained in my being, and feel as though Mommy would haunt me from beyond if I dared forget it.
In any case, I spent a wonderful few minutes online with my cousins in Canada, the USA, and my aunt in Australia reminiscing over our beloved family members who are no longer with us, missing our moms today. So I dug up a couple of collages I put together a while back, and I think this is the best way to celebrate Mother’s Day – with trip down memory lane.
The first row of photographs consist of my daughter, myself and my mother all at two years of age. The older I get the more I seem to resemble my mother more and more, but looking at the old images I see that I inherited her knobbly knees as well!
The second row of photographs are of the thee of us again but all aged 20. Both my portrait and that of my mother’s are university graduation and we are both wearing our alma matter robes. The resemblance is uncanny but also empowering.
It’s days like these that I understand who I am and where I get my strength from. We are what our parents mould us to be, and if the mother’s guiding hand was a strong, caring, loving, discerning, God-fearing one, then it sets the foundation for the type of person you become. Mine was all these but also one with a sense of humour, fearlessness, and blatant disregard for whatever is considered normal and doing what everyone else is already doing. Go the opposite direction, said Mommy, do your own thing and don’t let the others pull you down no matter what. Ignore what they say about your looks, your figure, and just outshine them all. Remember, this is the woman who taught me to fight back – never let the bullies win she said, and if possible, bash them with coconuts.
OK, the last sentence requires bit of a back story: while growing up in Jolo, Sulu, an island on the tip of the Philippine archipelago, Mommy was the eldest of eight children. My grandfather was the town judge and this is a role he never divested himself of, even at home. One morning, after returning from the market errands, my mother who was then about eight years old, was cornered by a group of older boys in the neighbourhood. The short version is that she was beaten up, her dress torn, and the food taken from her. She returned home empty-handed and in tears, going straight to her father to report the incident. Lolo (grandfather) did not take her in his arms to cuddle her, but instead told her to wash her face and change her clothes. A few minutes later, he escorted her back to the boys, who were horrified when they realised whose daughter she was. The Judge, as everyone called him, warned the boys that if they ever touched his daughter again he would personally see to it that they landed in jail. Then he turned to my mother and admonished her never to return home in tears for being beaten up. At the very least she was to fight back by any means, and if she still lost after that, only then would she have the right to cry. Well, the acrimony continued, but from that day forward my mother always bought three coconuts on a branch and used them as her protection, swinging them in anyone’s face if she was bullied (which she was, over and over), but she never went down without a coconut bashing.
So while some mothers taught their daughters to sew, be poised, and bake, mine taught me the value of coconuts.