My mother has an alarmingly loud voice for someone who is under 5 ft tall. She’s timeless, her bottle blonde hair can easily be mistaken for white, and it makes her beryl eyes look artificial. Her voice is poignant in the produce section of crowded grocery stores. I hear her as she shrieks my name over aisles of canned beans hands cupped around her watermelon lips as I stand in the corner of the town’s busiest supermarket on its busiest instance; the days before Thanksgiving are especially hectic. It’s just before noon and the poultry section is an utter shitshow. My mother has always been youthful but ever since she developed a fascination for tennis skirts she looks her age. Grocery shopping with my mother is an activity that I had convinced myself I had grown out of entirely, seeing as though I now only see her on long weekends and holidays. But she insists, and I clock in at about 145pounds of pure terrified of saying no to my mother. We had been waiting in the checkout line for an hour.
She was smacking a piece of gum and conversing (flirting) with the man who stood in front of us in line her body language speaking just as loud as her voice when she bolted from the line and towards the other end of the store. It occurred to me that she had forgotten an item on the list and decided that she would leave me to attend to the cart, figuring that she could retrieve the item before we reached the front of the line. I’m watching her small frame get smaller and smaller until she finally disappears, while the man in line picks up where he left off on his blackberry. Soon enough the cashier has rung up everything in our cart, and there is still no sign of my mother. I begin to feel unpleasant as everybody behind me in line taps their foot impatiently. Just as I feel like I’m about to scream, my mother appears next to me, slightly out of breath and clutching something in her left hand and the hem of her skirt in her right. I look down to her hand only to find a single box of pasta. The whole situation infuriates me. I refuse to eat the pasta that she cooks up for dinner that night.
The amount of love that I have for my mother can not be described. It’s pretty confusing because she almost sold me for three chickens and a goat when we were on vacation in the Galapagos. Just kidding. My mother is above average at what she does. She understands that I am insecure and sometimes unwilling to “put myself out there”. She understands that I am not always comfortable with certain things, and that I am, for lack of a better word, shy. For this reason, she used to organize dozens of playdates and wouldn’t let me leave the dinner table without answering a pile of questions about my day. She would coerce me into bringing cookies to the next door neighbors, sealing my hands to the warm plate and pushing me out the door as my cheeks became hot and my eyes watery. She knows that I am beautiful and once shot me a look that could’ve killed me when I doubted it. She is outspoken and she drives me crazy. She is the kind of person that is still proud of her “most popular” high school superlative, and wants me to be the same. That I have known since Kindergarten.
When I was in grade school I believed that I was superior to my mother because she isn’t as American as I am. She’s the kind of foreign that has her certificate from Ellis Island framed, and that would rather die than pack my lunch in a brown paper bag. She spent the first 15 years of her life living in Italy, among Italians, married an Italian, divorced the Italian, and consequently had a very large house to herself. I was seven years old and my sister was three. At first glance of my mother and her two daughters, people assume that I was either adopted or switched at birth during an unfortunate mix up at the hospital. In contrast to their groomed blonde hair and happy eyes, my hair is chocolate and unruly while my eyes are so brown they may be mistaken for gold. People say that I am “my father’s daughter” and that my sister is a “mommy’s girl”. But once they look closer they will notice that while I do have my father’s eyes, I also have my mother’s nose. On my face they’re still together.
My mother speaks English very well with her hands and with a screwy accent, as if she learned it from a Prince Spaghetti commercial. My mother is also very well mannered, sometimes secretive, and not a listener. She takes to independence patently, but she cares immensely about what other people think. The transition from first to second grade was tough. My mother had no problem with the idea of walking into parent-teacher conferences and social events alone, but what bothered her was the problems that other people would have with it. When my father picked us up for dinner on Wednesdays, he waited in the car. He began to do things that my mother never saw coming, like taking yoga classes, eating dried fruits out of plastic bags, and wearing orange string bracelets. In short, they didn’t speak much.
When I was twelve, I begged my mother to take me to the hair salon. I had a recent fascination with short hair filling my journal with clippings from magazines of pretty girls with short hair and wanted nothing more than to look just like them. As any mother would, she drove me to the hair salon and winced from her seat in the waiting area as the man chopped my beautiful curls. When he was finally finished, he turned my chair around and as soon as I looked in the mirror, I screamed. It was the worst haircut I had ever seen, the ends curling out around my ears unevenly. My mother was the one who payed the man so, obviously, I blamed her. I remember perfectly sitting in the car and barking allegations of neglect at her while she gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white. I was already having a tough time at school, my best friend had just moved away, and I was falling behind in math.
School was gruesome. Teachers began to insist that I couldn’t wear hats in school and there was this one juvenile in my homeroom that clapped every time I dejectedly removed it, displaying my barber cut. Lunchtime was even worse. My mother would rather pull me out of school than let me buy lunch out of the cafeteria. Instead, she would handcraft the most embarrassing affair. She once packed me a fullblown Indo-European lunch, complete with meatballs and enough mozzarella to choke the Godfather. I waited until she picked me up from piano lessons that afternoon and yelled at her with a tomato sauce blemish on my shirt. I refused to acknowledge the fact that the components of the picnic were all of my favorites. Eating my lunch inside the noisome bathroom stall began to have its effect.
One lunch, I was walking from class towards the cafeteria when I heard a voice that I wish wasn’t didn’t ring any bells. I looked towards the corner of the dining hall to see my mother, skirt and all, smiling and trying to get my attention. I wanted nothing more than to close my eyes and for her to disappear. I hadn’t gotten in trouble with the principal in quite a while and she was supposed to be at her bikram yoga class, so I was naturally inquisitive. However, I wasn’t nearly curious enough to commit social suicide and be seen conversing with my own mother during lunch of all times. I thought about racing towards the bathroom and locking myself in a stall, but my mother just began to yell my name. I paced towards her slowly with tears threatening to spill from my eyes. To my surprise, she held out a brown paper bag. Inside was a ham and cheese sandwich wrapped in tinfoil. This was so unlike my mother that I wondered if she had been abducted by aliens. She proceeded to tell me that if this is what I truly wanted for lunch, she would support me.
Unfortunately, this gesture did not dull my exasperation. I screamed and screamed at her for having showed up and embarrassed me in front of everyone. She then offered me yet another gesture that was so out of character I went back to my alien theory. It was a travel mug full of my alltime favorite Italian hot chocolate: ovomaltina. I refused the broiling drink and yelled about how how cheap it was for her not to bring me brand name American hot chocolate. I even made her keep the drink and I pushed her hips towards the exit. Nowadays, if I am eating dinner and I think of this moment, I immediately lose my appetite. Between this and the time that I was grounded for three months for piercing my ears with a thumb tack, I could not have been an easy kid to deal with. Reflecting on how I was like as a child has turned me off from the idea of having children of my own.
I am grateful for the independence that my parents granted me from a young age. I am usually very busy. I’ve never stopped adding to my resume, but these days I don’t care about my future like I used to. As for my mother, my affection will never dwindle. There isn’t a moment that goes by where she’s not running through my mind and I can’t stand it. When she texts me in the middle of class I can’t get anything done unless I reply immediately. It’s like there’s a churning pit of guilt in my stomach that becomes sticky and thick until I become almost resentful that she reached out in the first place. I am still confused as to how my mother became the indefinite love of my life, but she has. I want so badly for someone to tell her that I love her. But not me, because I could never.