It’s hard to start a story about my mother, not because there are no stories to tell, but because there is an abundance of them.
I remember, it was my mother who fed me every morning before I go to school. The morning banter often happened whenever there were vegetables in my food, there was too much rice, or too much soup. I always had excuses not to eat, but my mother would not let me get away with it. By hook or by crook, by slippers or by hanger, I had to finish my food. Even while crying.
People would not believe me when I tell them I have thick, curly hair back then. School vacations did not really mean beaches or out of town trips. Yes, we do those, but idle days in the house meant burying my face in my mother’s lap while she grazed my hair, as meticulous as a farmer, to exterminate every louse that she saw. I would often cry, my mental exhausted from boredom, my face covered in sweat. I would curse her under my breath, my brows furrowed and my hands into a closed fist.
There were times I was able to escape her, but she would always wait for the sun to come up and look for me. By that time, I’ve already squashed myself under the bed, or have already conquered my fear of the dark as I hid in one of the cabinets, eyes closed just to be sure no monsters would creep in.
But she always knew where to find me. Every time.
There was also a time when I was in kindergarten that I stole money from our store. My little hand was like a fishing net drawing one-peso coins from the little canister. Our ‘tinderas’ were laughing at me, and I tried to act cute as I shush them and told them not to tell anyone of our little secret. But my mother found out anyway. The one-peso coins were almost drowning in my pocket uniform, and they were like bells chiming as I approached my mother for a ‘mano.’ She took all the money I had and deprived me my baon. Oh, my valuable two-peso coins. She slapped my hand so hard I cried going to school. What was supposed to be a glorious day became a day of sulking in the corner come recess time. But she did not care. Let your classmates see you crying so they’ll know you stole from your mother, she said. Now, in my 20s, even when her belongings are scattered in the house, 1,000-peso bills aglow, I dare not touch it.
And then when I entered college, I had my first boyfriend. He lived close to home and studied at the same school as me, but we were always careful so my mother wouldn’t know about us. It was one of the many things she was very strict about. It may sound eerie, but there were times that I would hear my mother’s voice echoing her two reminders. Finish school, then you can have a boyfriend. Those things cannot overlap, not on her watch. And so after a year, we got caught. Of course. She went to meet my ex-boyfriend in a coffee shop. Even before they talked, I know what she was going to say. She cannot have a boyfriend right now. If you like her, then wait.
I have never figured the how or the why of my mother’s omniscience and omnipresence. Somehow, every mischief I took upon myself, she found out. Is there a sensor I do not know of? Does my mother own a sixth sense? She is this quiet lamplighter as I trudged every path, the keen mother owl who patrols every room in the house to make sure everything and everyone is in place. Leaving the house with my clothes scattered and my blanket not folded means coming home to a clean nest, my books organized in a pile. Broken hearts and broken plans are often mended by surprise in a form of a hot plate, a slice of cake, a refreshing mango shake. A quick glance in a beautiful pair of jeans would mean a swipe of my mother’s credit card. She is just there whenever, even during times when I’d rather be alone so I can resent the world in peace.
All I wish is for her to live long. It may sound selfish, but she deserves to see every accomplishment I would earn for her, every grandchild I will raise for her, every act of kindness I will do inspired by her. Because she told me, I will be the greatest writer in the world. And I will be, for her.
Happy Mom’s Day, moms.