Pieces of a Mother

Wendy Estavien

Looking at my mother has always felt very much like staring at my own reflection in a broken mirror.


An immigrant, she came to America without much to call her own - a classic story that many people know. Yet my mother’s story has always been a mystery to me.


She walks with secrets in her scrub pockets and dances quietly with the unspoken weight of the world on her shoulders. She doesn’t share - not her emotions, her struggles, her difficulties or even her joys. Not with her sisters, her brother, her mother, husband or children. She works, often relentlessly to make everyone work as best as they could. My mother has always been hard cast, demanding disciplined behavior and routines, offering occasional warmth and very conditional love.


That’s how it’s always felt; I still don’t know if that’s the truth.


I, albeit the spitting image of my mother, do not navigate through this world the same way she did, and continues to do. I have experienced enough of this world to know that routines don’t always work and discipline forgets to see the gray in the black and white world. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, if not my face. I have worked hard and have lived out everything the American Dream did not offer her. I have been made woman in a country that is completely unlike that of hers. I have been made woman by land that has taught me to take on a lifestyle far different than what was imagined for me. I love - fiercely and loudly. I disagree - we disagree - often.


See, my mother and I rarely see eye to eye. We live together, but do not exchange many words. We certainly don’t relate, but we both know that we can each see very clearly into the other through the broken glass of the mirror. We are Yin and Yang - co existing in the same place, but overlapping only so much that you can catch the smallest glimpse of what goes on in the deepest part of our hearts.


We interact like oil and water. Our relationship is turbulent.


It has always been difficult to connect, and even tolerate someone who is well aware of her ability to cut me the moment I try to reach out and touch. At some point I stepped away from the danger, even though I have become attached in many small ways to the woman on the other side.


This is all to say that in this shattered mirror, I have seen the worst in my mother, myself and our distant relationship. This is also to say that I have seen the best. In the mirror I see a woman who hasn’t taken shit from anyone for as long as I can remember. In the mirror I see a woman absolutely dedicated to making the best possible outcome happen, no matter how difficult or frustrating it may be. In the mirror I see a girl who has survived every trial that this life has brought her so far. In this mirror, I see my mother - my difficult mother, my enduring mother, my nagging mother, my harsh and distant mother, my only mother.


I see myself. I see who she made me to be, shards and all.

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