My Mother, My Self
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Mothers and daughters have a dynamic relationship unique from every other. Their bond begins with their gender, with all the nuances and complications attached to it, and because of it. The primary male in both their lives, husband to one and father to the other, plays a part but it is supportive at best.
My mother played a huge role in my universe. She was larger than life and the quintessential life-a-holic. Even at a young age I perceived that she was different. She followed her own path. I later learned that she ran away from the relative security of her childhood home in Dupax, Nueva Vizcaya, to blaze a trail that would take her from a near kidnapping by the HUKS in Plaridel, Batangas, to a life as wife to a soldier, an airman of the Philippine Air Force.
Mamang was ambitious and dreamed of a better life. She did not finish college. But what she lacked in schooling she more than made up with her intuition, inherent business sense, and chutzpah. Her sari-sari (local five-and-dime) store attracted the most customers because she anticipated what our neighbors, both adults and children, wanted. She created a need where there was none. She cornered the market for fresh bananas, and had ‘suki’ (patrons) from the far corners of Fernando Air Base in Lipa, Batangas.
The combination of her strong will and clear purpose were daunting. She had no patience for disorder or filth. I was convinced she could stare down house dust and rodents. She was that scary. She kept a tidy house and expected her children to appear well turned out and well behaved.
She was a paragon who deserved respect and admiration. She had them. But not from me. My day was ruined when friends and family compared me to her. ‘Para ka si Conching’ sent me to apoplexy. I didn’t see the good points everyone else did. I saw a mother who smothered me with rules at every turn one party per month maximum; no loitering after school, straight home if you please; and by all means bring home the best academic grades.
She told me once that running away from my strict grandfather gave her the freedom she dearly wanted. ‘I was like a horse freed from its corral!’ Well, that’s exactly what I felt when I found work a continent away. Newark, New Jersey was a world both strange and exciting, thousands and thousands of miles away from Cebu. I was finally free and untethered from Conching’s corral.
The tables are turned now. I have two adult daughters who have similar complaints about me. I was known, supposedly, as the strictest mother at Holy Spirit School. ‘Mom, you were scary!’ I also found out how my husband called the house before we arrived from our dates. ‘Heads up, we’re arriving soon. Tidy up.’ Oh, horror of horrors, I have become Conching. Do they cringe whenever they are compared to me? I’m afraid to ask.
Mamang passed away September last year. I spoke to her almost every week until she was hospitalized. Sometimes for no other reason than to make her happy because we had exhausted every topic. And her hearing suffered greatly by then.
Mother’s Day will have been celebrated by the time this issue is published. This is the first year that I will be sending my best wishes to my mother who now resides in a better place. No longer will I be able to hear her voice. But I do know it by heart and can imagine her squeals of delight.
Happy Mother’s Day Mamang. I hope it would make your day to know I have become your clone a mini Conching. My mother; my self.
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