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My Mother

Written by Ogenna Oraedu | Edited by Stacey Dubreus

I wish I could take back every bad thing I’ve ever said or thought about my mother.

         Do you know that scene in Lady Bird, where Christine (Lady Bird’s actual name), played by Saoirse Ronan, is shopping with her mom for her prom dress? Chistine says, in a very un-Lady Bird-like way, that she wishes her mother liked her. Her mom responds with “Of course I love you.” Those aren’t the words that the 17-year-old wanted to hear, but they mark a trait of the relationship between the two women. Christine’s mother loves her, as all mothers love their children, but we don’t know if she necessarily likes her. She does what she does for her out of familial obligation. To be liked by your parents, on top of being loved, is more proof of affection than just their love. A mother’s love is forever, but their “like” is reassurance that you’re doing something right.


         For a really long time, I thought the relationship Christine had with her mother was a reflection of the one I had with mine. I too am stubborn, loud, slightly irritating, and my mother works in healthcare. We would fight over the length of my shorts, and I would then shoxw up to the first period wiping my tears. I thought my mom thought I was a whore.

         Newsflash– my mom never thought I was a whore. I was 16 and didn’t understand that I was curvier than my white counterparts. I also have insanely long legs. I, too, would scold my child if she decided to wear shorts that she constantly had to pull down in order to prevent her entire ass cheek from spilling out. 

         Anyways, Lady Bird made me feel seen. I consistently ignored the parts where Christine acted like the most obnoxious person on Earth to those around her. Instead, I focus on the moments where her mom disregards her dreams and aspirations or whenever she calls Christine ungrateful as a way to connect her life to my own. All this being said, my mom was never as discouraging as Christine’s mother was to her. I only thought she was.

         I was (and still am) a busy adolescent. I did the school musicals, played in the orchestra, and was a member of choir in middle school. In highschool, I was in the chamber choir, a founding member of one of the a cappella groups, and was on the mock trial and swim teams. I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand how many concerts or meets or competitions that my mom attended. My dad’s appearances, however, I can count on two hands. It used to puzzle me how, despite living in the same house and both of them having jobs that required a lot of their time and energy, my dad attended my senior night swim meet, and my mom did not. My dad drove me to my girl scout meetings in elementary school, and my mom did not. My dad said yes to me going out, and my mom did not. Therefore, using inductive reasoning, my dad was the hero, my mom the villain. 

         But my dad didn’t give birth to four kids. My dad has a tendency to mix up all of my siblings' birthdays, not because he is a bad father, he’s just African. My dad didn’t sit with my sisters and I for hours in the salon, and didn’t hold our hands when the aunties were knuckles deep in our hair calling us tender-headed for crying. My dad didn’t remove my stitches in the kitchen, patiently working through every wince or “ow” that escaped my lips. I didn’t call my dad during my summer semester abroad to tell him that I was at an all time mental low, and he wasn’t the one who asked me if I wanted to talk to a therapist upon returning to the States. 

         Mothers are complex human beings who we as a people expect to be one sided. We laugh at our mothers’ neurotic tendencies with our fathers, ignoring how much they worked and sacrificed for us to even be able to laugh at them. My mother is a pediatrician with hundreds of different children, and yet she still has time to call me and ask me how my day was when I’m at school. My mother, who pushes aside what is definitely an undiagnosed anxiety disorder in order to come home after a long day at her practice and make all of our favorite foods. My mother remembers all of my friends. My mother paints her nails with me. My mother who stands and helps me take out my hair. My mother taught me to keep a pair of flats in my car so I’m always comfortable when I’m driving. My mother sunbathes in the backyard and reads a book in record time. My mother loves to laugh. 

         My mother did not give up anything when she moved to America after marrying my father. She was starting a new life with a man she loved. She didn’t give up any opportunities when she gave birth to me, or my brother, or my sister, or my other sister. But she gives a piece of herself every day to everyone around her. 

         At the end of Lady Bird, Christine finds letters that her mother had written to her. This moment, which I conveniently forgot every time I decided to hate my mom for not letting me go to some party in high school, is really what a true relationship between a mother and a daughter is. While Christine’s mom had her flaws and was quick to show her frustration to her daughter, she loved and cared for her. Christine’s mom was human, and her attempts at writing down how much Christine meant to her is the answer to her earlier question of “... do you like me?” 

         She loved her daughter enough to attempt to keep her safe from the disappointments of the outside world, but she liked her daughter enough to write her feelings for her on paper. She liked her enough to try again and again, to struggle to find the right words. The letters are the silent, subtle, “yes” that Christine craved. The yes that proved that Christine was doing something right.

         I’m starting to see more and more of my mother in myself, and more and more of myself in my mother. We have the same nose. We overload ourselves with work. We have a hard time saying no… unless we’re saying no to each other or our siblings. My mother is my inspiration, to the point where achieving all that she has seems like a daunting task. But I love her, and I like her, so I’m willing to try.

         I wish I could take back every bad thing I’ve ever said or thought about my mother. Because at the end of the day, everything that she does is for me. And I think, in a way, everything that I do is for her.

What is Love?

Written by Stacey Dubreus | Edited by Ogenna Oraedu

What is Love?

Go call her up; a mother’s love is the only guarantee 

But, I’m your blood, it’s only obligation to me 

Go tell a friend; touch is a language 

Not automatic automated “tele-love” in my telephone,

There was no receiving of the receiver, I hung up 

ring ring, I declined

but if you touch me I can pretend 

like there was something better than that assigned love 

Do you like me? Do you know me? Do you see me? 

The due date has been passed, 

I’m so grown, I cannot mold 

to receive a love so foreign– a nourishing love 

it’s not your flesh I miss, but the agency your touch gave me to pretend

I crave my imagination 

the nebulous and hypotheticals gave me more comfort 

than the tangibles 

Playing with my brain is my self care 

I self-mediate, self-validate, self-assure, self-appease, but 

please, I can't take it 

My imagination is becoming a toxic tease, a taunt   

I only see what I don’t have 

I only say what I don’t hear 

I only crave what I don’t feel

“Where are you?”

“I’m not coming back.”

I need a translator 

all I hear is, “I’m not coming back.” 

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