We tell stories to remember.
We tell stories to understand.
We tell stories to comfort.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I will try to attempt and remember, for myself, and for my mom, what makes our mother-daughter bond unique. I grew up an only child for close to seven years. For most of that time, according to my mom, I was the center of her world. She was as fierce as lioness, took me everywhere she went. Because I was so fair and always looked more like my dad, people never associated me as her daughter. A story she loved to tell me growing up was that when she would be asked whose child I was, she would always say that she only borrowed me from a relative because she found me cute.
Growing up she liked to dress me in outfits identical to what she was wearing. It was a thing during the 1960s and 70s. I remember we had identical “peasant” dresses and ponchos, the multicolored ones you buy in Baguio. Because she had long hair, she also mandated that I keep mine long. In the early days of elementary school, when my ponytail became too long, she would brush and braid my hair before school every morning. I used to hate having to sit still and feel her tugging at my hair so that my braid would be perfect. It was only much later in life when I realized that this was her love language.
Mommy was never like the typical mom of her era who cooked, kept house, and wore dresses. I can count on the fingers of one hand, the times that she cooked. It really was not her talent. Mom however could do carpentry, trouble shoot the plumbing, and would not hesitate to climb the roof when something needed to be checked.
I don’t ever recall her wearing dresses when I was much younger unless it she was required to wear one for a television or film shoot. For mommy, it was always a pantsuit, or a tunic over pants. Gowns mortified her and now that I think about it, I don’t think she ever owned one. We ere always at odds later in life when it came to manner of dressing. “Babae ka kasi masyado!” (“You’re such a girl!”) She would often say when she found that what I was wearing too feminine.
Though mom and I are as different as night and day, there were many things she modeled for me that are etched in my heart. She taught me not to be afraid to go against the grain – “Bahala kung anong sabihin nila. Humihingi ka ba sa kanila ng bigas?” (It doesn’t matter what they say. Do you ask for rice from them?) and to never be afraid to march to the beat of my own drummer.
Mommy always liked to speak her own mind, and though this is a trait that I learned much later in life, I only needed to remember how fearless she was, and how she constantly pushed me to find my own voice.
As a child and teenager, my tendency was to keep things inside even if I was hurt and angry. I had mastered the art of sucking it all in whenever I was heartbroken or disappointed but mommy would always notice my restlessness and lethargy. “Halika, pumunta tayo sa bundok. Ilabas mo lahat iyan. Isisgaw mo iyan doon.” (Come on, let’s go to the mountains so you can let out all your anger sadness. Shout it all out!)
Mom always told me she was not worried about me because she was confident that I had her smarts and her brave heart, and that I would make wise decisions and always find my way in the world. Even as her adult child, she would on occasion, continue to support me, always present at the birth and hospitalization of every child I brought into the world. However, being both strong-willed women, there were also countless times, when she did not agree with my decisions and choices, she would leave me on my own to figure it out. I will always be grateful that in spite of our differences, her mother’s heart only now only chooses to focus on what is good. And even if sometimes the words fail, love continues to prevail.
“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” – Brennan Manning.