In my selfishness, I have never thought to ask: Ma, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My mother was pulled out of elementary school early, and she remembers sighing in lamentation as girls walked by her house in their school uniforms, notebooks tucked neatly under their arms. She devoted herself to los quehaceres at the age of eight and hasn’t quit since.

But did she want to be a doctor? An actress? An engineer? A baker? A schoolteacher? Did she actually want to be a mother? Is she proud of her daughters and did they turn out the way she expected? Does she have any regrets? If she could start anew, what would she do differently? Or would she do everything the same? I’m ashamed to say I don’t know the answers to these questions. It’s probably time I ask.

What I do know? I know her first love broke her heart – almost beyond repair – but that her pride is unmatchable so she never looked back. Being proud doesn’t mean we don’t hurt inside, however, and I can sense it at times, when we talk about love, a certain tango comes on, or the protagonist in a novela locks eyes for the first time with who will prove to be the love of her life. My mother’s shrine of pictures and her quiet, melancholy demeanor on anniversaries tells me she dearly misses her parents and siblings that have passed. I know that she is proud of her lineage, by the way she says MARGARITA CANO when they ask for her name at the voting polls. I know that her devilishly handsome grandsons take up 95% of her heart, and that they come close to fulfilling the desire she always had for a son of her own. I know that she is incredibly bright. Her vocabulary is so extensive she uses a new word just about every day. She taught herself to read and understand English and one of my favorite images is her sitting at the kitchen table, glasses on, reading the Pawtucket Times. She is super quick with the arithmetic and could easily swindle me out of $100, leaving me with my head spinning. My mother is a great mother and an even greater person. Everyone that walks into our home doesn’t just feel welcome, they are welcome. My friends love my mother, and I am convinced they’d rather hang out with her than me.

We are so used to having our parents to ourselves that we cannot imagine their lives being their own.  It’s all about our goals and our problems and our trajectories in life and rarely do we stop to think: are they happy? Did they reach their full potential? Is there more they’d like to accomplish? It’s easy to forget that they, too, are human, minds whirling with thoughts and ideas and hearts buzzing with decades of sentimiento. Mischief, laughter, sex, music & dance, bad decisions, heartbreak, debauchery, molecules. All of those things are part of them, just like they are part of us.

I am a lot to deal with, I know this. My mother literally picked me up at I time when I was so down it would have been impossible to be more down. She has taught me goodness, generosity, and selfless love. She has held our home together during times that it should have imploded at the seams. Her being her created me, and I have a lot to be thankful for.

5 thoughts on “Thankful.

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