A few months back, my mother and I got into yet another disagreement. It consisted of the usual talking points: She failed as a mother, her daughter is selfish, her daughter doesn’t subscribe to the same moral code as she does, etc. Typical Haitian mother dramatics. She told me that it upsets her that I don’t speak to her and that she doesn’t understand why. She went on about how she wants to be able to communicate with me and still complained that she had failed as a mother because her daughter didn’t grow up to be exactly as she had planned. While she talked, I sat on the edge of her bed growing angry. It was time to give it to her straight. Maybe then, I thought, she would leave me alone. Maybe if I finally tell her exactly how I feel about her, she will get the point and just leave me alone. And so I said it. “You’re my mother and I love you. But I don’t like you. I don’t want to talk to you. And since I’m such a disappointment, once I move out, you won’t hear from me ever again and you can still make things right with your son. Hopefully he doesn’t disappoint you.”
Saying those words felt good. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t give me some pleasure seeing the look of hurt on her face after hearing what I really felt. She had hurt me and I wanted to hurt her back. I felt lighter. And so I kept going. I told her how her wishy-washy behavior is damaging and confusing. I told her that she needs to say what she means the first time and stop trying to be a “cool mom” when she will only regret it later after I’ve acted in accordance to what she has said. I told her that she has to accept that I am not and never have been another version of her. I told her that I am ME and will continue to be me. I told her that in order to preserve my sanity, I’ve decided to be selfish in ways that she is not because I see how her selflessness has negatively affected her. I told her everything. “Well I’m sorry. But you don’t know the truth about why I have done much of what I have to you.” she replied. I looked at her confused. She was saying there was a reason behind everything, so what is it? But when I asked, she refused to speak of it. “If you won’t tell me WHY you do these things, I won’t understand and we won’t get anywhere,” I explained. Still she refused to tell me about whatever she had been hiding. “So then nothing will be resolved and there is no need to continue with our conversation.” I concluded. She tried to get me to accept her apology but I saw no need for it. She was not willing to help me understand and so I was unwilling to forgive her. And then she finally opened up and told me everything. My mother finally shared with me the secrets of her life that she vowed to never tell me out of fear that I would look at her differently. It wasn’t easy for her and when she was done speaking she looked at me as if I had stripped her naked and left her raw and exposed. She looked at me as if she hated me for making her bare her soul to her first born and only daughter after she had spent much of her life burying those experiences and secrets. I hugged my mother and told her that I loved her. I thanked her for finally trusting me enough to tell me what she promised herself and God that she would take to her grave. I assured her that what she told me would not make me look at her differently. However, since that day, I do see her differently.
My mother’s fear of her children knowing these things about her and looking at her differently is valid. She’s afraid that her experiences would cause her children to see her negatively. But it is quite the opposite. Growing up I’d always seen my mother as tough and able to withstand anything. Everyday I see the physical scars life and love have left on her. They tell everyone that she is a survivor of tragedy. She is a miracle. My mother was not supposed to be alive today but she beat the odds. But for some reason I never thought about the emotional scars. The scars and still open wounds on her heart and soul. Now I’ve seen them. I’ve smelled the blood. I’m beginning to understand. And because I’m starting to understand, I’m trying harder.
Since the day my mother opened up to me, we have argued some. To say that we’ve become the black version of the Gilmore girls would be a farce. She still has a hard time understanding some things about me and I still think she is crazy. There are still times when I’m angry and think to myself that I will move far away and never reach out to her. There is still a lot of work to be done and truthfully, I’m unsure of just how much progress will be made. The difference is that before, I had come to accept that she and I will never get along. I had decided that I will never like my mother and maybe I just don’t want to like her. But today, I no longer feel that way. Today, I want to like her. Today, I am trying to like my mother.