My mom wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. At least not for me. The last conversation we had, I brushed her off. She wanted to go to lunch and spend the day together. After all, it was my birthday. It was also a work day. “Playing hookie” as she put it was not something I was willing to do. I wasn’t sick, and I wasn’t about to call in sick just to spend the day with her. “Some other time, mom. I have to work today.” I could hear the disappointment in her voice. She had called bubbling over with excitement and hung up hurt. Two weeks later, Mom died in her sleep. For us, “some other time” never came.
The last Mother’s Day card to her from me was a doctor holding a baby up-side-down in the delivery room, and the woman had a strange look on her face. The outside of the card read “Look lady, I just delivery them.” Inside the card read “I don’t explain them.” That card pretty well summed up our relationship.
For a rebellious, system-fighting woman who refused to be shoved into some sort of box that did not fit her free-spirited nature, you would have thought the bond between her and her equally rebellious flower-child of a daughter would have been strong. It wasn’t. Don’t misunderstand me, we had a deep love for one another. We just seemed to bump heads at every turn. As a teenager; I did not understand why she so often tried to shove me into that same “box” she had rejected for herself. Looking back now; I think I understand better. Mom was ahead of her time. The forties and fifties were not a time for women to challenge their roles in society. Mom’s refusal to accept the dutiful role imposed upon her by others brought about a great deal of struggle and heartache. She wanted to spare me; to protect me from the same pain. My march to a different drum was during a time when women were throwing their aprons out the window, a time when attending college wasn’t a means to “snag a good husband”.
What can I tell you about my mother? Second to the youngest of 16 children; she was educated in a private Catholic School.
Mom was a rebel. She challenged the Nuns, the Priests and just about anyone of authority. At Sunday Mass, the men gathered outside the church, smoking cigarettes and talking politics, while the women and children sat inside the church, listening to the sermon of the day. Mom argued with her mother and older sisters, not understanding why she could not be outside with her brothers. It seemed wrong that she could not be a part of the more interesting conversations simply because she was a girl. At school, Mom was equally disruptive. Always running late, Mom was known to roller skate from class to class until the Nuns took away her “wheels”.
Her older brothers held positions of high authority within the government of the Philippines. This afforded Mom with the opportunity to raise a little hell of her own. When she was twelve; she took her brother’s official car (with high-ranking government plates) out for a joy-ride. She could barely see over the steering wheel of the car as she barreled through the street of Manila. The police, seeing the plates, did nothing to stop her. I can just imagine my mom; with a carload of Catholic-School escapees, out for a day of fun with no one standing in their way.
I wanted June Cleaver as a mom. What I got was Lucy with a Filipino accent. One thing was certain; life with Mom was never dull. She was wacky, wild with all sorts of “screwball” ideas. Mom didn’t color outside the lines, she scribbled – big, wide deliberate colors as far outside the box as she could reach. I shall miss her always.
Wishing Mothers everywhere a wonderful Mother’s Day.