Dear Mama, I See You

 It’s been a hard week, Mama. It’s been one of those weeks where I feel bad about myself. One of those weeks where I feel small. My card wouldn’t swipe at the grocery store last night, and then I dropped all of the change that the cashier handed to me. Pennies and dimes everywhere. I tried to pick up a couple, and then I just gave up, stumbled away in a hurry, feeling the eyes on me. 


I spent a lot of time in bed this week, Mama. I have that restless desire to get things done from you, and that shame when I fall short, which is a lot, so it’s not normal for me to spend a lot of time in bed. I remember hating you for waking me up early on the weekends. I hated that you asked me to go on walks. I used to be front of the line on our family hikes in Yosemite, me and my chubby legs wobbling along proudly, looking behind to see if you were watching. Then I became a teenager, and my blood told me to hate you, and so I hated hiking, too.


These days, as I see the beginnings of creases on my brow, these days, as I hear myself laugh in a way I used to mock you for, sometimes I will close my eyes and imagine you at my age, and wonder if you felt the way I feel. If you saw the lady on the subway singing, and the way the people glared at her, if you would have felt a deep, sharp sadness too. I wonder if you made weird faces in the mirror when you were alone, too. I wonder if you lived in your imagination, too. Did you have a hard time telling people how you really feel? Were you gassy? I know the answer to that question.


I don’t think I’ll ever work a 9-5, Mama. Neither did you. The things about me that stress you out the most, I know you see in yourself. We are painful, beautiful reflections of one another. What a strange thing that must be for you. For me, it’s all I’ve ever known. For you! You had 40 years of life before I came along and drained your bank account. What did it feel like? To see yourself in a person you created? What did it feel like? To have that person worship you, love you? To see that person pull away from you, to resist you, to hate you? What did it feel like, Mama?


I go on long walks now, Mama. Just to walk. I think of you often when I do it. I think of the times you asked me to go on walks with you and I said no, why would we go on a walk, I hate walks. I go on long walks now, Mama, and I want to go on walks with you now. Walks in the woods, across the sand with the water dancing at our toes, up mountains. When you get tired, I’ll carry your pack. When I feel distracted, you’ll exclaim how beautiful a flower is, and it will make me smile.


I was an asshole, Mama. I dealt with adolescence…poorly. I wanted to succeed, but I also wanted to do keg stands. I wanted to make you proud, but I also thought it was the right thing to wear crop tops and drive my car really fast. I knew that I was lucky, but I couldn’t acknowledge it. I was fighting for my identity, and somehow you felt like an enemy instead of an ally. 


I know what I want to do now, Mama. In a few weeks, you’ll be 70. I want to curl up next to you, and hear your stories. I want you to tell me what you’re scared of. I want to tell you what I worry might not happen for me. I want to make you laugh. I want to watch you paint. I want to make you dinner, and do the dishes. I want us to go places we’ve never been before. I want to rub your sore neck. What does it feel like, Mama?


I’m starting to figure stuff out. A lot of it is still shapeless mystery, but you, my dear Mama, I see you, and you are beautiful. Life started with you. You are me, and I am you. The pretty, the ugly, the awkward. How could I ever learn to love myself without loving you first?