The topic for this Creative Buzz Hop is superheros. And while I could easily go on and on about superheros in comics, movies, literature, etc. I’d like to talk about my own hero. My mama =P
My mama is one of the strongest people I have ever known, and I don’t just say that because she’s my mom. While she would hate me saying this, in a few years and once I’m on my own, she may very well become my best friend. I enjoy her presence as much as I enjoy any good friend’s. My mom has always stood on her own two feet. She looks at the situation, sees what needs to be done and does it, and only rarely does she look back and regret.
If there is one thing that my mama has taught me is that I shouldn’t regret anything and that I should be exactly who I am and praise God for life every day.
This post is going to be a little long for the sake of what follows. In my junior year of college, I took a memoir class and this was one of the first things I wrote. I have since edited/revised it a lot, but I still love it for what it is. So here you go.
Mama and Me (M2)
Michele is my mother. She is the most wonderful mother and woman that I know—and this is not only because she is my mother. My mother’s point of view of my life gives me a greater understanding; I ask “Mama, what do you think?” Her view is always important and always welcome: although I don’t always want to hear it and I often disagree with her. She is the scientist—the mathematician, and although I’m much quicker to figure answers by way of rounding, she can do higher math without the use of a calculator. I, however, have the humanitarian side—I am the religion major, the one always striving to find different and new ways to ask questions which can never really be answered—I am okay without having the answer, she is not. I am the opposite—yet the same, and surprisingly I’m okay with that.
My mother is strong willed, always has an opinion—but doesn’t overstate—she knows what to do in a crisis and she cares an insurmountable amount. Her view of me is extremely important, I want to live up to her expectations, but she has taught me to have my own expectations of myself—those which far exceed her expectations of me. My abilities, my life choices, and my reactions to situations are all, in my view, relevant to me from her view. She is my mother, the one I strive and have wanted to be like.
I was working diligently: prepping the meat that would feed everyone. Thank God, we’d gotten it as a gift. It is one less meal to worry about, one less day to not be able to feed her. Glancing over I can see her, my Pumpkin, staring out the window, toes stretched on the arm of the ugly green floral couch. I could see her fingers curling on the window sill as she tried so desperately to see outside. White snow covered more than half the clear glass and fluff was still floating softly to the ground. Winters were so different here than from back home—home on the East Coast, where my family is. I focused on the task at hand, I needed to stop worrying about my baby and focus on this meal—I did not want to burn it.
My stomach was a bundle of nerves threatening to tear through my flesh—ruthlessly trying to claw its way out. It was ready. Maybe. Double check the directions—check, DO NOT BURN the turkey—check. I would never hear the end of it if I burned this meal. Mama had cooked the turkey at Christmas when I was little—I don’t remember much about her and it saddens me so, I remember her face barely—mostly I remember her smell. She died when I was eleven and just as green. I remember going to the hospital and finding out she was no longer with us. After she died and we had returned home, her smell was the last thing to leave the house—it was a torture to smell her everyday. I always wanted to be like her, but it frightens me to think that I might have to leave my daughter before it is time as well—it unnerves me. It is a good thing that when I grew up I was like her—strong and always ready for what comes next. Hopefully, my baby will become the same. Now back to the turkey—the one task that my Mama could never manage to teach me. I double checked the directions and the bird.
To Be Like Her
I hate that I rarely sleep—always trying so hard to be like her, to be the best that I can be. It’s not that I want to be a scientist or to have gray hairs or be a bad cook. If there is one thing that she taught me, it was to always strive for a new being—to learn new things and to be the best that I can be. I love her and I hate that I’m always striving to be like her—like her, yet different. I want to be myself. I want her good qualities; I want her love, her determination and tenacity. I have been called these things, and yet I still do not feel up to par with her. She is where I came from; half of me is her, biologically. Yet otherwise, as I have grown up only with her I have more her than him. I am my mother’s daughter.
I am not afraid to do things on my own—I am not afraid to put myself in a situation where I might lose out. I have friends that rely heavily on me—my caring nature from my mother. They rely and I give, they need, so I help. I am always willing to help another. My Mama has had the rug ripped from under her feet so many times, she almost expects it to happen—she expects to fall. I want to be like her, because in her expectations of falling she is still willing, she is a mother, a friend, a coworker, a boss, and a Christian. We are believers, but we also have doubt.
I do not look like her—except her eyes. I have my mother’s eyes. They are a pale blue with splashes of dark gray. Our eyes change color easily, depending on what we wear. Our eyes are what we use for communication: our stress, worry, joy and excitement can all be discovered in our eyes.
My mother and I used to live in a small quaint apartment on the basement floor of the ugly rectangle building. On this particular day, it smelt gloriously of turkey. It was our task to cook the turkey. The flavor seeped into the air to the point where I could taste it on my tongue. It was wonderfully pleasant for a child who was starving. My stomach rumbled and ate away at me from the inside out, it begged me to steal just a piece of that scrumptious meat, to shovel it into my mouth, and blow out warm air after burning my tongue; all hopefully before Mama saw. I didn’t want her to see, I didn’t want her to know that I was eagerly awaiting this meal, finally something other than the dreadful bird—this was a gloriously tasty one. I wandered around the apartment trying to not be noticed. I was planning my move. I was figuring out the details behind my stealing a piece of that white meat. In this plan she would never know, Mama would never see me. I paced through the rooms, my bare feet touching the cold linoleum of the kitchen and the short carpet of the bedrooms and hall. This plan was going to be perfect.
The smell penetrated my mind, my stomach and my nostrils: going towards my center, the bird screamed “Eat me!” I was obsessed with eating that turkey. Mama looked at me with adoration as I reached for the oven, and I checked on my target. Not done yet, I was trying to be sneaky yet conspicuous. Mama saw me. Shooing me out of the kitchen she reached over to shut the door to ensure the safety of the bird. Mama wasn’t always so efficient in the kitchen, but after a year of eating bird, the memory of how to bake the whole entree was engrained on the tips of her brain. She had struggled meal after meal to make it edible—it was never quite to the standard of being food.
She had to cook duck every week. She tediously and tirelessly pulled each feather from the flesh. We got the duck for free—we were poor—we were below the poverty line and the church members often hunted duck, but no longer wished to eat it as it was difficult or annoying to cook. But we had no choice. We ate what we had. I would watch her work away at that duck. Pluck. Pluck. Pluck. There were so many feathers to pluck. Sometimes Mama would shave the duck, it was in an attempt to make it easier and faster to eat. However, as Mama is a horrible cook, the ends of the feathers were left in the skin, causing the bird to be pokey and scratchy. Even though it tasted disgusting, Mama found a way to provide for me—so I would eat, but not without a fight for a grumble at first.
I was desperate to shave my legs. I was only ten years old, but we had moved to California and it was warm outside—I wanted to look nice and I wanted to be like her. Sitting carefully in the bathtub of our one bedroom apartment, I lay the razor against my flesh. Carefully, I pulled back. It was so much easier than I thought! Smooth, my legs were smooth! I ran my fingers over my skin feeling the lack of hair—I felt so grown up, so ready to go out into the world and declare my maturity. I thought, at the time, that I was acting like Mama—I later found out that I was sadly mistaken, there was no way that I could measure up to the kind of woman she was and is.
Upon turning off the water, Mama walked into the bathroom as soon as I had finished—she was there to put aloe on my back: I was careless and had stayed in the sun too long, thus burning my skin. She saw me and was not happy. I was too young to shave my legs—too young to worry about those kinds of grown-up things. Placing the aloe on my skin she didn’t speak. She was silent, regarding me curiously the whole time—maybe she was ready for me to grow, at least just a little, but I’m fairly sure Mama didn’t want to admit that.
She had almost burned the turkey—again. It was a good thing I was so determined to eat it and had kept nagging her to check on it. She would have left the bird in there all day if I hadn’t forced her to take it out when the beeper went off. Carefully, pulling the bird out with six year old, holey oven mitts that did barely anything to protect—dinner was ready. Mama deemed the bird a success and I was long past ready to try it. I was ready to feel my teeth sink into the meat of a well-cooked Christmas meal, all the flavors rotating around in my mouth, coming together to create a glorious frenzy of succulent splendor. But Mama wouldn’t let me have any. She pulled the turkey away from me.
Mama pulled me up the sledding hill in Bozeman—my favorite place to live. I was old enough that I should have been walking but I wanted to ride—I wanted to glide along the white frozen snow below me. Her hands were warm and covered with mittens as she gripped the rope tightly—but she dropped it as we reached the top of the hill. It was time to slide down. It was time for her to let go. It was time for me to go down the hill and for her to watch me glide.
I didn’t want to tell her, I knew she wouldn’t be happy and I knew she would say no. I was going away to France on an exchange trip in two days and Mama was already worried about that. This was an added stress, but I needed her signature—I needed her to okay it officially with the school before the school would officially approve it. I was fifteen and green. But I knew what I wanted and I knew what I needed. So I began the conversation:
“Mama, I wanna graduate early.”
“Mama, did you hear me?”
“Mama, what do you think?”
“It’s your choice Pumpkin.”
She looked away.
I chose the school for me, but I did not choose right—or so I thought. Six months into it, I hated the school; all I wanted was to go home, to be pulled on my sled for just a few more months. “Mama, what do you think?” I asked her so many times. What did she think? Was I ready? Well yes—and no. I would not have lasted another year of High School, I was ready to graduate. But I was barely seventeen years old and over 500 miles away from anyone I knew. I felt so alone, so lost. I wanted her to lead the way again.
I thought I was strong enough to do it. Strong enough to walk through that build up of powdery snow. So I walked into the frozen air, stepping on those helpless bits of snow; my heavy boots pressing further into the cold cement, and my cheeks and nose reddened with protest. Taking my first breath I could feel my nostrils begin to freeze; flecks of cold flowing into my lungs creating sharp shots of pain every moment. I took a very cautious step up the first stair: white fluff compressed together under my weight and I prayed that my feet wouldn’t falter and let me fall. My second foot followed, placing it gingerly next to the other. I was still steady. Mama had the same determined look on her face that I wore.
I could hear the snow crunching underneath the weight of my booted foot; the other would quickly follow begging the release of pressure on the knee. Up each stair I went, finally, making it to the top. Mama and I gently set the sled onto the heavy snow. She took the ropes, wrapping the string solidly around her fist she pulled. Pushing her way through waist high cold fluff I followed diligently behind her, the pre-made path of steps guiding my journey. As I placed my foot into Mama’s crevassed print in the snow I carefully avoided all other white. We made it to the end of the sidewalk before I gave up; the snow was too deep for my little body to contend with. We’d made it to the beginning of the first playground and already I had to sit on the sled and have Mama pull me along behind her.
Mama and I grabbed the ends of the drywall board. We hoisted it into the air and placed it against the wall. Being strong I held it there—alone—while she screwed the plaster into place. There were so many screws. Finally she told me I could let go. I had watched; making sure we had secured the protection wall before starting for the next one. Upon finishing we sat back on our heels admiring our handiwork. We had built our house. Mama touched my hair softly as we looked at our home. She loved me. I loved her. We loved each other. In that moment we, together, had built our house. “Hey, Pumpkin,” her voice was soft, and tired. We had done a lot of work that day and exhaustion was seeping into us. “Let’s go get some ice cream.”
My baby, my pumpkin, my sweet potato, and my sweet pea: my child, my daughter and my friend. Softly I trail my finger across my infant’s forehead, over her brows and to the curve of her delicate cheek. She sleeps soundly in my arms as I watch her. She coos lightly, expressing her content. My eyes are glued to her—what will she grow up to be? Who will she become? What does the future hold for her? Gingerly, I lay her in the crib, my hands trailing along the wood as I leave her in her dreams. “Goodnight Pumpkin,” I whisper it quietly as I close the door behind me.
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