I’VE met my mother not only once, but many times in my life.
At home, of course, there’s Mama. My dragon mother. Seriously, expect her to breathe fire and scorch everyone in her path—my sister who forgot to put the lid back on the peanut butter jar, or the fastfood restaurant crew member who got her order wrong.
When she was pregnant with me, she suffered from eclampsia, a condition where high blood pressure leads to seizures. I was told that I had to be taken out of her womb through Caesarean section. And she had to go under the knife two more times to give birth to my younger brother and sister, resulting in permanent scars on her belly that have turned pale and pink with time. I can only hope to be half the woman she is.
I think of my Papa, too. My father is, in many ways, a nurturer. When Mama left for abroad to work, he was the one who looked after us. He was the one cooking meals and braiding my hair in the morning before I went to school. As long as he tied my hair properly, it didn’t matter if the steam had blown a lid off in the kitchen. But I didn’t worry about it. He knew exactly what to do in times of trouble (a flying lid was no match for him) and his love extended towards his furry and feathered family—the dogs, chickens, goats, and geese living in our yard.
Whenever I’m lonely or hungry, I run to my grandmother’s house. I call her Mommy. As the fluffy white clouds drifted lazily outside, I would sit beside her on the sofa, sip a cup of warm coffee, and listen to some of her stories, over and over again. In my grandmother’s arms, I felt safe.
There is also my aunt, the only person in our family whom I can talk to about boys without taking extra precautions. She arranges brunch and shopping dates only for us during weekends. My aunt and me? We have a secret pact. Just don’t tell my mother that part about boys, or else she would set the whole kingdom on fire.
Now I remember my English teacher in high school, who would always go out of her way to cheer me up and make me feel more comfortable with myself.
As long as Papa tied my hair properly, it didn’t matter if the steam had blown a lid off in the kitchen
Back then, I was a painfully awkward teenager who worshipped Greek mythology. As my favorite teacher, she was Demeter, the goddess of harvest, the cycle of life and death, and I was her daughter, Persephone. The rest of the population in school were mere mortals who would fall to their knees in our presence.
But I couldn’t live inside an imaginary world, where tridents and golden fleece existed, for so long. I had to leave to study for college. It has been five years since we last saw each other, yet she would still get in touch and send me a text on my birthday. She is Demeter, after all.
Always equipped with pain relievers inside their bags, Alyssa and Tania, my college friends, would check up on me once in a while (“How are you?”). Without them, I probably wouldn’t have survived the emotional and physical pain brought by every end of the semester in college. But here I am.
Looking back, I often found myself taken under the wings of someone I’m not related to by blood. So it didn’t surprise me anymore when I found a mother in a lowly stranger from the streets and stalls of Manila.
There is an old and plump woman who owns an eatery on the roadside of P. Noval Street. Her skin is fair, her hair upturned. She calls out to people, mostly students, passing by. There is something about her, clad in an apron, that makes me think about home. Maybe it’s because of her voice, bubbling with enthusiasm in a lonely crowd.
I stepped inside. Drained of strength and energy, I sat on a wooden stool, and ate a bowl of sinigang she made herself. For the next few years, I would do the same thing, and without a word, a bowl of sinigang and a plate of piping hot rice would appear in front of me. She already knew.
That is how, over the years, I’ve come to realize that a mother’s love comes in many different forms. Scars. Braided hair. Stories. Pain killers. Warm soup.
The mothers who looked after me, who took me under their wings, at one point in their lives, taught me what motherhood really means. It’s their nature to love, protect, and nurture someone.
Here’s to motherhood, and whatever other forms it may take in the future.