Disclaimer: I will only consider myself a success if my mom loses water weight by the end of this post due to her sheer volume of tears shed. Disclaimer fin.
Once upon a time, I knew more than my mother. Or at least I thought I did. Like, totally. And because I so obviously knew more of the world than her, I knew she was too strict, too paranoid, too invasive, too present.
She had too many opinions about what I was wearing or learning or doing. She had too many questions about what I was feeling or whom I was liking or where I was going. She had too much of a Filipino accent for southern Alabama, too many family traditions for popularity, too many exotic ideas and recipes and sayings for a girl who just wanted to fit in with all the other belles who stretched out their vowels and hankered for grits and sweet tea.
My mom loves sweet tea.
I rolled my eyes when she told me not to kick my shoes off when I drive, because what if my shoe slides under the brake pedal and I get into an accident because I can’t stop the car? I huffed when she had to know exactly where we were when we were out of sight, even if we were just going to church, not fully appreciating that in exchange for omniscience, my siblings and I didn’t ever have a curfew. I wallowed in utter humiliation when she made me un-invite one of my friends from my birthday sleepover, because there would have been thirteen warm bodies under one roof, and superstition says one would wake up dead. (Or not wake up. You know what I mean. But I must point out, years and years later, this is still my favorite story to tell.) I stomped across my college campus at midnight, 350 miles away from my mother, because she asked me not to go out with friends that night after she accidentally broke three dishes in a row, and her inklings were not one to be trifled with.
My mom was not my best friend. Nor did she pretend to be. She was lawmaker, rule-enforcer, the Bad Guy my father had been appealed to overturn (a role in which he was only marginally successful), Number One Fan, nurturer, encourager, and above all, protector. No one would steal my lunch money or break my heart under her watch.
And though I spent my childhood exasperated in true adolescent form at my mother’s old-fashioned sense of family, her superstitions tied tightly to her (my) Filipino culture, her dizzying Tagalog sayings, songs, and swears that are laugh-out-loud funny, her traditional recipes that made our entire house smell like Epicurean Paradise even though I just wanted fried chicken and okra without a side of rice like all the other kids, I knew my mother was someone special, someone unique, someone who thrived and flourished in her role as mother, who was divinely appointed to raise us, to raise us well, and to raise us uncompromisingly, even when she ought to have smacked our rolling eyes right out of our head.
And now, because I know a hair more of the world than I did fifteen years ago, I absolutely crave my mother’s presence, her wisdom, her love, her chicken adobo and pulvoron (recipes bend at her will), her humor, her generosity, her genuine best-friendship now that it isn’t a danger to growing up right, her stories, her adoration for my children that is exponential of her adoration for her own children, her complete and infinite selflessness, and her compulsion to clean my bathroom to a streak-free shine every time she visits. (Just kidding about that last one. Seriously, Mom, put. the sponge. down.)
I only hope I’m doing half as good a job.
Happy birthday, Moms. Your hair looks extra nice today.