This is All About My Mother

o1 My mother’s name is Aida, a name she shares with the four act opera by Giuseppe Verdi about an Ethiopian princess who is captured and brought to Egypt to serve as a slave. Later on, the military commander Radames falls in love with her and struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. To complicate the story further, Radames is loved by the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris, although he does not return her feelings. Even if you are not familiar with this opera, you probably know from what I have just told you that it does not end happily. I do not know if my mother was named after this opera. I don’t think she was. There doesn’t seem to be any special reason behind her name, or indeed any of her siblings’ names (Margaret, Josephine, Evangeline and Reynaldo). Perhaps it just sounded pretty to my grandmother. I do think that my mother has the prettiest name among the kids in her family.

o2 My mother has a beautiful voice. She loves to sing, but she has never had much gift at remembering lyrics and as a result when she sings, she often skips an entire line or ends up humming the melody of a song. If she can sing a song in its entirety that means it is a song she loves very much and probably had an old vinyl of it when she was a young girl.

o3 My mother, god love her, has no taste in movies. She’ll watch anything that’s on if she hasn’t seen it yet, but she won’t abide by anything that has too much nudity or too much swearing. She won’t sit through a foreign film because she doesn’t want to read the subtitles; they hurt her eyes. She is not the type to see a movie again, even if she liked it the first time. “I’ve seen that,” she’ll say, “no point in watching it again.” There is only really one film she has seen many times over. That’s Sleepless in Seattle. She has a copy of it already but she’ll watch it again whenever one of the movie channels is airing it, especially waiting for the part where Tom Hanks comes back to retrieve something his son had forgotten to find that Meg Ryan has picked it up. She loves that part to pieces, because it makes her think of forces at work in the universe, pushing us towards the people and places we are destined to find. She has a copy of the film’s soundtrack, which actually isn’t a bad soundtrack at all. She can sing all of the songs there in their entirety.

o4 My mother is a religious woman. She always has been. She’s belonged to only two different religions in her life and each time she was completely faithful in observing the beliefs of the religion she belonged. She sees the hands of God at work everywhere and she says to me, time and time again, that this brings her much comfort. This is one of the greatest differences between us. I have never been much of a believer. I can see that it hurts her tremendously and that she’s frightened for me. For her, hell is a real thing and if I don’t change that’s where I’m going. Can you imagine living with that kind of fear – that someone you love will perish in the fires of eternal punishment? I do not know how she keeps sane.

o5 My mother is tired. She is 54 years old and is not retired. She has raised two daughters (one more difficult than the other), for some years even on her own. There were times that she had no one to turn to. My father had left us, for a good six or seven years, and many nights during those years, my mother would wait until both my sister and I were asleep, go downstairs and cry. Sometimes, she wouldn’t even make it past the stairs or her own bed. She would sit up all night long and cry. I know because I wasn’t always asleep. Sometimes I would find the courage to interrupt her; to break into her private weeping and hold her hand. Often, I did not. I wish now that I had done so more. I wish now that I had done it every night she cried.

o6 My mother likes her junk food. She knows that she’s supposed to be watching what she eats, but if you offer her a bag of chips or french fries or a slice of pizza she’ll take it every time. My father constantly reminds her to eat healthy. She tells him she will and then buys potato chips and hides them in our room and sneaks out late at night to come eat with us.

o7 My mother found it in her heart to forgive my father. He tried to come back two times. The first time, it didn’t take. He went back to his old ways. The second time, he was a changed man, and even when my sister and I were skeptical my mother knew it was going to be different.

o8 My mother and father are a really good match. It took me years to really see this, but I know now that it is true. My father is a man of few words, only speaking when he needs to or to tell a joke to lighten up a conversation. When he is upset about something he thinks about it and mostly keeps it to himself unless the time comes to really address the problem out loud. My mother is the exact opposite. She needs to talk about her feelings. She needs to talk about what is bothering her or it weighs on her heavily, robbing her of her sleep or even proper breathing. I see them talk each other down or up, whatever the case may be. It has taken years, but my mother and father seem to have become the best of friends.

o9 My mother, sometimes, it seems the kind of person put on earth to be a mother. From the very beginning she knew that she wanted a family. She wanted a child. A daughter, if we’re really being honest, but if I had turned out to be a son I’m sure she would have loved me all the same. She wasn’t sure that she wanted another but when I had asked her for a sister she agreed. She thought it best that I didn’t grow up alone. Where someone gets the strength to decide to have a child, much less two, I am never going to understand. This is just another one of those great differences she and I have. She was two years younger than me (I am 28 years old) when she had me. I, on the other hand, am terrified of children.

10 Despite all this, my mother and I have more in common than we think. I have yet to really think of ways that we are similar; it’s taking me years. But this I believe. Maybe it is because with every passing year I begin to look more and more like her.

11 My mother does not know how to talk to me, although this isn’t from a lack of trying. She tries very hard to reach me. I, on the other hand, do not know how to reach back. I do not know how we lost the words to communicate with each other. I do not remember when we started settling for civility.

12 My mother will not always be around. I know that someday she will die, like everything must. But it is hard to imagine that day coming, just as hard it is to imagine someday the day will come when the sun will no longer rise. It is hard to think of such a constant thing in the world dying. It is hard to accept that even such strength will someday lie down. When that day happens, I will be the most struck, and may be each day after it will be a little less bright and warm.

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