a working reflection on motherhood

“You don’t know the hold our mothers have on us, even the ones that are never around–especially the ones that are never around… Yes, the wildness was in me, yes it kept my heart beating fast all the long day, yes it danced around me while I walked down the street, yes it let me look boys straight in the face when they stared at me, yes it turned my laugh from a cough into a long wild fever, but I was still scared. How could I not be? I was my mother’s daughter. Her hold on me stronger than love.”

Excerpt from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz

i am my mother’s daughter. her second & most rebellious. i watch her pick up a plate with her wet, spider-like fingers as she imagines throwing it across the perfectly lit family room. her eyelashes thicken with sleep & i wonder if she ever dreams of the sweating mango trees of her echoing country. she trembles in her dirty robe & promises herself only one drink after this last plate dries. her thin lips vibrate songs she used to hum to us, her three Marias, before I became motherless. they stop vibrating & her glassy eyes stare into the sink, as bottomless as her needs. she releases every knot in her shaking bones by massaging them with breath. the same breath she’s been holding since her last drink, two hours ago. the plate crumbles like sharp petals in her soft palms that i miss & her wet, spider-like fingers bleed the color of the deep ripe skins of sweating mangoes, & continue to bleed as her most rebellious daughter watches, in quiet mourning.

i am my mother’s daughter. her second & most rebellious. soon enough, a unique individual will arrive into this world, at her own design: my daughter. i am ecstatic & scared shitless at the same time. how will i raise her with my values without suffocating her essence & compromising her personality? how will i know when i make the same mistakes my own mother made? will my daughter make the same mistakes i did as my mother’s daughter? barely seeing my strength in the light, after my countless weaknesses have been magnified? who will she be? what will her passions smell & taste like? what will her love sound like? which book & which song will inspire her forever, who will she cry for, what will make her smile? how will she come into her own as a woman?

all i am certain of is: i don’t have answers to these questions that materialize in my dreams. all i am certain of is: my daughter will be much stronger than i am at times, just as i am stronger than my own mother at times. but the weight of our strength may shift, & learning to channel this awkward shift is essential in a mother-daughter relationship.

i’m still steady straddling the fine lines of my own womanhood, in celebration & reluctance. all i am certain of is: i am my mother’s daughter. her second & most rebellious. my needs as bottomless as her own; my deep longing for my mother as i enter motherhood strengthens by the second.

seven deep breaths everyday. seven weeks away.


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