This I Believe

Maggie - West Linn, Oregon
Entered on February 22, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: parenthood

Mi dulce compañía

I believe in my mother. A woman who sits in a pile of mortgage payments, loans, and bank statements, sifting through the raw finances of her life for the first time in twenty-one years. A woman who works two jobs, untangling the stories of abused children and married couples alike. A woman who loses her glasses every ten minutes, who takes my picture every five during a swim meet and yells when the dishes aren’t done. For a long time I thought of her with frustration, this person I share a house with who demands to know where I am each night, who speaks to me in Spanish even while I stubbornly answer back in English. This woman, my mother, is just like me. She is real, and doesn’t hide it from me just because I’m her daughter. She welcomes honesty and pain when others, including myself, push it aside. When I complain about her eccentricities she simply answers back, “I am who I am,” an eerily biblical and fitting response from someone with the power to ground me at any given moment.

When I shared with a friend I had chosen to write about my mother, I told her I had already decided against it, that it just wasn’t something strong enough for me to choose as a topic. And that’s when I suddenly became conscious of something—nothing is ever strong enough. I pushed my straw into our milkshake and realized my mother is weak. I’m weak. Even my bicycling Norwegian neighbors are weak. In this life it is our weaknesses that force us become strong, and to be infallible means to need no one else, no God, no nothing. But for the very same reasons my mother is weak, she is strong. I’ve watched her deal with reality every day, and with problems of whose entirety I have no idea. Because of this I embrace my weakness, my humanness, and I will not accept eternal loneliness. Hearing my mother on the phone upstairs is enough for me right now. It’s enough to know that she loves me and that no matter how cold the house gets she’ll still grin and present me with some kind of dinner if she gets home first.

There is no ultimate belief that I have, no concrete guidelines that I live by other than my gut. I was raised celebrating Hanukkah right alongside the Day of the Dead, the Corona and Goldstein of my name conceding to a sort of watered-down Judeo-Catholic faith. I’ve questioned, complained about, and even hid this strange mix of cultures that I come from, but because of my jumbled background I have been able to make self-defining decisions for myself by myself. This is what my mother taught me. She showed me how to be my own person by doing exactly that herself, no apologies, no excuses, weaknesses and all.

I believe in my mother. I believe in her strength to stand and her willingness to fall.