Imani (Part 5)
My earliest memory of my mother is suddenly seeing her walk through our front door, a baby, my younger sister, cradled in her arms. I remember, with longing, because I still see myself in muddy clothes, staring as the rest of the children filed after her into the house, begging to carry the child.
I was lost; where did this child come from? Why did she have to come? My brother and I were perfect, I felt, and my parents didn’t need any other child. So I stayed outside, staring into the sky and wondering why its blue felt darker that day, slowly attempting to turn into grey, trying to cover the sun’s rays from hitting my head.
With time, I learnt how to dwell in the shadows of my sister, having replaced me as the favorite child. Everything was about her; the baby’s milk, the baby’s clothes. What have you done to the baby?
Even at the tender age of four, all these changes seemed too uncomfortable for my mind. I shut myself from the world, slowly letting my voice disappear within my throat every time I wanted to speak. Learning how to conceal the hot anger in my chest and the tears at the corners of my heart. Slipping from people’s grips unnoticed, and burying my head in a greyness that resembled a dull sky.
My next memory of my mother is maybe a year and a half later; her slap across my face almost breaking my jaw, and unveiling all the hidden tears I had buried within me for so long. I remember my father asking why I cried, because he had never seen me cry before, and the cracks in my voice sliced my soul into pieces.
How does a six-year-old say that she feels distant, left out. That it feels as if their presence in the house is no longer needed, so they bites their nails, pulls out their hair, cuts the soles of their feet, and bruises their back against hard tree barks, just to feel what lies on the other side of pain?
How does a six-year-old feel so trapped in a small body, that they start stripping naked in front of everyone, looking for crevices on their skins that could maybe let out the burden?
I remember my father’s eyes, his tears dangling, just like mine, his hand caressing my head, and the whisper in his voice saying, “You are my child. I have to understand what you are going through, so I know how to walk with you around it, or through it.”
Memories escape me, but I gather that is when my heart softened towards my father; seeing him in my dreams, saying his name silently when I prayed, and sometimes, tucking his little pictures in my pockets whenever I left home.
I gather this is when my heart drew a wall, however thin and transparent, between my mother and I.
I have spent most of my formative years with my mother, sometimes walking on eggshells, sometimes living fully, laughing on her bosom, her breath tickling my neck. I do not know how these kinds of relationships work. This bond between daughters and mothers. It comes to me like something I stumbled upon, as something I have because it is the way life is; you are bound to have a mother. I do not know how to make conversation with my mother, at least not the ones I seamlessly have with my father. Why? Because a chunk of my heart and soul is still stuck in not knowing what to say or do that won’t offend her.
So I am always lurking in the shadows, going away just long enough for her to notice my absence. Long enough for her to start craving my presence, even though all I do is sit, smile, make small talk, eat, sleep, and ask about my father.
So I have mastered the art of staying just short enough that she still wants to hold on to me when I leave. That she holds my hand, softly, and says, “Do not forget about me, even though it is your father that you ask about all the time.”
My mother says you want to stay here, for as long as you can, so you can see how a healthy bond between a mother and a daughter looks like. How a daughter behaves so that her mother treats her with dignity; treats her as her child. She says you blame yourself for what happened to you, and how your mother reacted.
My mother says she wants us to give you all of it. This love you want. This ‘lesson’ you want. This validation you seek, even though she says she understands it is not your fault; all that happened to you.
But I have sat with my soul throughout the night and realized I cannot do this. I cannot show you what it means to be loved by a mother, because all this love she has shown me so far, has not been something I looked for; it just showed up, and I embraced it.
I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a darling daughter ‘looks’ like, but I know how a caring mother looks like. I have seen how my mother sits with my sister. I have seen how they laugh. I have eavesdropped on the intimate conversations they usually have. I know when they talk about delicate things and my mother tells her, “Do not tell your sister. Her heart is not as strong as yours.”
I want you to experience all of this; softness, tenderness, love, warmth. I want you to see my mother as your answered prayers, her hand guiding you out of the darkness in your heart and soul. I want you to experience the magic that lies within her, unadulterated by my presence, wants, and feelings.
You cannot experience any of this if you live under the same roof as my mother and I. One of us is bound to fail, and crash all that you seek.
So this is me taking my leave, and hoping I leave enough room for you to thrive, and maybe, start healing.
I hope you come out of this better; understanding that none of this is your fault, and that you deserve all goodness and niceness that the world has to offer.
See you on the other side of light.