Saturday, September 4, 2010

My mother the brave

Today is September 4th. It is my mother’s birthday. She turns 69. Let me tell you a little something about this woman.

She desired me for 5 years, yet she couldn’t get pregnant; back in the 70’s fertility treatments were more like trial an error experiments. She suffered and yet kept trying every single option – from fallopian tubes blockage treatment (yes, the painful gas-injection-old fashion one), surgery to remove ovarian cysts, to herbal teas and prayers. Finally, she was with child – with me to be precise.

She worked in her trendy boutique (the first one of its kind back then in her Mexican home town) and expected me with hope and joy…and 6 weeks before my arrival, she find out the hard way my father was cheating on her…she cried out of deception, broken trust; and I felt it, of that I am sure…it left me an ultra sensitive and apprehensive heart.

A fling it was, he said… and she wanted to believe. I was born in a December night, as small and pink as I could be. Marriage continued, difficulties increased, she kept working non-stop... and yet, after five years from her first baby girl, my sister was born: baby of the year – it was barely past midnight on a January 1st. . I remember her arrival, I remember my jealousy. But mostly, I remember her big green eyes.

Two little girls completed her world. Two little girls were all she kept after the husband (my father) vanished. No, he didn’t die. He just decided to leave. She started a new life in a different town, she gave us all she could for us to be safe and raised us as good as she humanly could. She was alone. She was a 34 year old young woman (now I see it), with a huge responsibility and nothing else. I remember her working, almost never around. I can see her arriving after a long day at work and sitting at the kitchen table to eat her favorite dinner: a bowl of frosted flakes… spoon after spoon…so quiet.

My sister and I learned to do everything by ourselves: from cooking to homework, from shopping to cleaning. I was a 12 year old adult taking care of a 7 year old kid. Mom was always busy, but expecting the best from us. I was always afraid to disappoint her. .. She was terrifying. Good grades and perfect behavior was not an option, it was the only way. No prizes, no encouragement, but the mere idea of letting her down was enough.

Year after year, work after work… town after town… school after school; we moved a lot, she was always looking for the best opportunity for her girls. No matter what it took, she never cared: housekeeper in a popular hotel (frequently visited by her former high-society Mexican friends), a cook at a student’s cafeteria and an overnight shift as a caregiver … everything so the girls could afford a better life…but she was never there… the girls were always alone taking care of themselves.

We grew up to become two independent-strong and determined women. My sister married his best friend and has two beautiful perfect girls. I married the love of my life and have been just the two of us (plus our dogs) for the last 21 years (11 married). My mother lives near my sister, still works and takes care of her two granddaughters. It took me a long time to see the things I see today. It wasn’t easy to accept that no one’s life is painless (one way or another). It took me a lot of years to understand that, my mother, as a young and beautiful woman, back then had a choice: and she decided to stay with us. She did what she thought was best. Out of love, out of courage, she made us become what we are.

Even though we sometimes -more often than desired- fight, or despite the fact that she doesn’t react the way I think she should, or the three thousand door mats she places all over the house carpet (oh, because god forbid the carpet might get dirty) I love her with all my heart, respect and honor her for her accomplishments and even more for her sacrifices… and how blessed and lucky I am to realize it in time.

To Olga: the Mother, the Tita, the fighter… but foremost, the woman.


  1. This is so beautiful. Your story is one of hardship and struggles, of loss and betrayal, but also one of hope, love and strength. Your mother sounds like the most amazing woman, doing all she can to give her two daughters a good life. A true figure of tenacity. Thank you for sharing this, it is uplifting, moving and inspiring.

  2. Happy birthday to your mum.

    She's certainly lived quite a full life with some bumps in the road, but has done it all to look after her family. At the end of the day, there's nothing more important than family, so good on her.

  3. There's no doubt then, you get your strength from her. The little misunderstandings between you are inevitable - two very strong, independent women are bound to clash from time to time. But, what's most evident in your post is the love and what a woman will do for it. Happy Birthday to her. May she delight in the fruits of her work.

  4. Hermoso prima! Luchadora incansable es tu madre! Un amkr incondicional y un abrazo amoroso siempre para todos! Te admiro tia olga te amo y eres siempre muy importante en nuestras vidas felicidades por ser esa persona fuerte admirable y amorosa que siemore eres!

  5. Atte paola gastelum no lo puedo poner mas que anonimo no me deja del ipad de otra forma

  6. Amiguita, tarde pero segura, felicitaciones a tu mama! It's amazing how different we see things now that we are grown up and how much more we understand where our mother's are coming from and why they do what they do. One thing is always true, whatever they do their love for us is incomparable and immeasurable!

  7. Olga, qué padre que te puedo conocer más a través de tus letras. Qué admirable tu mamá... se parece mucho a la mía. Muy sola, pero muy luchona, nos sacó adelante a mi sista y a mi e hizo lo que mejor pudo. Ahora, años despues, lo entiendo y la quiero más. Me siento en un punto de mi vida paralelo al tuyo. Y si, mi mami también tiene sus manías y sus obsesiones con la limpieza. Pero es la mamá, pues! Asi que un abrazo grande grande a tu mami, por todo! Porque te hizo una mujer chingonsísima y a todísima madre. Me quito el sombrero, mamá Denisse... te mando un abrazo juerte mija, y un te quiero de corazón!

  8. Hi OJ! Happy Birthday to your mother! This was a beautifully written "birthday tribute" to her! I hope you save it forever. Did you show it to your mom? I agree you and your sister grew up to be independent, yet loving women! I can understand your anger or resentment when you were young, though, too. You had a lot on your shoulders then. I'm glad you have accepted everything and "realized it in time" as you said!

  9. P.S. OJ, will you please e-mail me? My address is in my profile information. I wanted to tell you some other things! Thanks!

  10. I'm your newest follower on your super awesome blog! I'll be back (in my best Arnold voice).


  11. OJ--I really enjoyed this post. My mother tried (unsuccessfully, even with Masters and Johnson, who had an infertility clinic in St. Louis in the 50's) to get pregnant; she eventually had to adopt to begin a family.

    I also read your post about the crying-game drama in the hotel. Very funny.

    I'll be reading more of your posts...

  12. Happy Birthday to your Mother! But God Bless your heart, I hope she reads this - I'm near tears. Life has a way of changing our perspective on things and the people closest to us and helps us all realize we all are just doing the best we can. You're both lucky to have each other. This was a delicious read. Thank you.

  13. Thanks a lot for your comments and birthday wishes for my mom - my sister has printed the post and they will share it today since I'm not in town. This post was cathartic and liberating...but above all, was my way to recognize her and letting her know the things that sometimes are hard to say. Again, my appreciation for your kind words - you truly encourage me to keep writing.

  14. Olga,
    I hope you get your comments in your email, so you can receive my deepest appreciation for nominating me to Words of Wisdom, blogger of choice.

    I got really nervous when I saw the nomination, like it was a pulizer prize or something. Truly, it means the same to me, especially coming from you. Many blessings. And again, Thank you soooooooooooo much.


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