A few weeks ago, my mother sent me a picture and immediately followed it up with a phone call. Her brother had just brought back pictures of the family from Nigeria, and one in particular struck her the most.
Her father passed away when she was 12, leaving behind a my 39-year-old Grandmother to raise seven children. More on my grandmother later, when I present that picture.
Today, I wish to focus on my Mother. We have spent so many of our years arguing about everything. Sometimes, it may only take two seconds of a conversation to go from friends to foe. If she were anyone else, I would have written her off by now, as I don’t believe in prolonged heated relationships.
But she is my mother.
Seeing this picture and listening to her talk about the day they finally were able to give my Grandfather a tombstone was humbling. Hearing her talk about her own mother, a woman who has had her fair share of fights with Mom, reminds me about the cycles of life. We are both guilty of one thing: we both expect each other to be perfect. In this picture, though, I was forced to realize that my mother was not born a woman, she came into this earth as a child. This may seem an obvious discovery, but as children I think we often forget our parents were once kids, too.
This is a portrait of my mother, depicted from a picture taken about a year after the most wonderful man she had ever known died. The stern look on her face is one of a girl who will have to carry a lot on her shoulders over the years. She will have to help raise her younger brothers and sisters, since she is the oldest girl and that is what girls were to do. She would have to go to high school, go to college in a new country during a time when race relations were still uneasy. She would be black in America with an African accent. She would fill our forms and letters of recommendations to get the rest of her family here for their own education.
She would meet my father, finish school, and then raise two girls in a city with few other Nigerians. She would try to raise them with the values her mother instilled while trying to make sure that they were able to assimilate in this new country. She would meet new people in a new land, enough to keep her satisfied to have still never gone back to her home country. She would save so that one day she could go back and start the pharmacy of her dreams in her hometown.
My mother and father raised me with the tools they had, and some things didn’t work while others did. There is no real manual for being a parent, you just have to do it. The only way to real gauge success is that your kids made it to adulthood without drastically harming others or themselves. I’m alive, I have my own independent thoughts and dreams, and without my Mother’s guidance, this would not be.
If I don’t agree with some of the things she did, the arguments we have had over my weight and my path, the times she seems to not really understand me and yet insisting she does, I must step back and see she is human. She, too, was once a child as blind as I was to this world. And now, it just happens to be she who is my mother.