Her Divine Role

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.

Her Divine Role

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.

My mama

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.



Filed under Family

18 responses to “Her Divine Role

  1. Oh, Jess, happy birthday to your mother ~ what a beautiful tribute. It’s my father’s birthday today, too, and I featured him in my post. (Hope he doesn’t read yours because it’s so much better – ha!)

    One of the most powerful moments I experienced when I gave birth to my first child was looking into his eyes and thinking for the first time:

    THIS is how much my parents love me.

    Really. I didn’t know. You can’t describe love like that. You just have to feel it for yourself.

    There’s nothing like becoming a mother to make you appreciate what your own did/does for you.

    Hope you both have a beautiful day. Love ~

    • Yes! You nailed it. Having my own kids makes me realize the intense love and crippling fear and wholehearted adoration and mind-numbing frustration my mom had everyday of our lives, all while trying to appear normal and reasonable.

      I’m sort of okay with waiting thirty years for my daughter to get to that point, because all us kids now appreciate my mom so, so much. Even if I was the only college kid who obeyed her mother three states away. (Hubs still makes fun of me for that…unfortunately, he was an eyewitness to that evening.)

      Thanks, Julie! And happy birthday to your papa!

  2. How beautiful is this, Jess! Wow. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman who raised a beautiful daughter.

    Since having children, I hug my mom way more than before. Somehow, the knowledge of knowing my own kids’ hugs will disappear spurs me on. And it feels so good.

    Happy Birthday to moms!

    • I know what you mean. I used to hate when my mom called every. single. day when I was in college, and now I feel disjointed if I don’t talk to her at least that much.

      You’re right – one part of it comes from finally appreciating everything my mom did, but another part (maybe larger) because I need that from my kids, too.

      Thanks, Leanne!

  3. I can’t believe your mom made you un-invite one guest. That’s terrible. Why couldn’t you just invite one extra and have fourteen?

    • Hah! You really cut to the quick, don’t you. Here’s how it went down:

      As I was leaving for the bus lane at school that day, one of the girls I had invited and never RSVP’d yelled, “See you tonight!” When I got home, I told my mom one more was coming. A little while later, she showed me a list of everyone who was going to be sleeping in the house, her expression morbid. I had no idea why she was showing me this list, I wasn’t fully educated in the superstitions of My People. So she educated me, then told me to un-invite one. I grumbled a lot, but Mom still threatened to cancel the whole thing, so I called up the girl who failed to abide by simple RSVP rules and told her she couldn’t come, citing my mother’s superstition (the truth), but to her probably sounded like a load of bull because I probably didn’t like her that week because she probably wore something better than me or something.

      After I made the humiliating call, my mom told me, “Hey, nevermind, great idea!” and that my older sister was going to have a friend spend the night. Fourteen. Lucky.

      O. M. G. So I called her back and told her to come, but she declined. (Obv.) We were back down to thirteen for another few seconds, before another girl (Girl Uninvited’s Best Friend) called and said she wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t come. To this day I know it in my bones the way I know I’m a girl that she made plans with the Uninvited to spite me. Maybe.

      So. Twelve. We were safe.

      Although the entire ordeal was moot, because before any of us actually fell asleep, in the wee hours of the morning when I was trying to talk everyone out of wanting to play Blind Man’s Bluff in the same room as my mom’s Swarovski collection, one girl really did feel sick and had to call her mom.

      So. The moral of the story is, always abide by RSVP rules, lest you find yourself uninvited. Especially if the party you’re going to is a sleepover and the matron of said sleepover is debilitatingly superstitious.

      You’re welcome, just call me Aesop.

  4. “…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…”

    That’s my favorite part. Terrific, Jess. I’m sure your mom loved it. And the photos make it even better.

  5. okay, i remember the superstitions, but i don’t remember having to invite a friend to stay over in order to rescue your sleepover party… who was she? do you remember?

    (apologies for the lack of caps… i’m typing this one-handed due to a sleeping evie in my arms)

  6. Sweet post. Doesn’t get much better for any mom on a birthday than to receive something thought out and genuine like this write up.

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  8. My favourite is the last sentence: “Your hair looks extra nice today.”

    Every time my kids accuse me of being “the worst mom ever”, I hope that they’ll some day think of me the way you do about your mom!

    Beautiful tribute!


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