In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to share this note I wrote about my mother, written two years ago on the anniversary of the day she passed. My intent is to give you an insight as to why I do this, why I’ve been doing this for most of my life, and why – regardless of what name I use or avenue I choose – I’ll most likely be doing this for the rest of my life. Everyone needs a role model, and mine was a true hero.
My mother was truly Wonder Woman. It’s one thing to be able to raise children and still take care of a household, but when you do it alone and still manage to shine and spread your love and positive, positive energy into every corner you pass…that’s a rare magic.
When Mom was young, she applied and was accepted into 9 of the 10 colleges she’d applied to. The one rejection letter came from an all-male college. She decided on Juilliard, and loved it, but transferred a few months later to San Francisco after a scary run-in with some New York thugs. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of San Francisco with a double major in agriculture and fine arts; raised four children almost single-handedly; excelled in music (classically trained, she also played piano and ukelele by ear); spoke five languages, including Latin; was an award-winning singer and actress; and finally, in her 50’s, settled into a job as a regional manager for the maintenance department of a large retail department store, condensing their three-week training period down to a three-day course and earning four consecutive “Regional Manager of the Quarter” awards. At Scrabble challenges, she remained undefeated up to her dying day. My grandmother, a teacher who raised four doctors, always said that my mother was her “most intelligent child.” Mom just couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Nerd that I am, one of my favorite things to do was to randomly call her up with a word I’d found to try to stump her with. She never, ever failed to give me a spelling and a definition. Who says Latin is a dead language?
Mom was also one hell of a hostess. If she were alive today, I would’ve saturated the social network with pictures and waxings rhapsodic of her culinary marvels and her presentational prowess. My mom didn’t just dump good food into a serving bowl; my mother transformed both the food and the serving receptacle into a work of art. My relatives still gather together and fondly recollect the parties my parents would throw at the drop of a hat, especially recalling the twinkling wonderland that my home became at Christmastime. Some people would call it overkill; I would call it mom’s snowstorm of magic.
And my mom was a beauty. A Filipino and Spanish bloodline blessed her with high cheekbones, slight almond eyes, full lips and a delicate little nose. Her thick black hair grew down to her knees and her teeth were toothpaste-ad straight. She had a sparkling smile.
The thing that people remember most about my mom was her kindness and generosity. Many of us have fond memories of our mothers’ love toward us, but my mother loved all. There was never a time when we didn’t have at least one extra relative living on our couch until they got back on their feet. At times, my mom took in whole families. During tough times, after my parents divorced, if there wasn’t a ton of food available, mom would add water, divy it up and make it last, but everyone was still welcome.
This remarkable woman fought against racism, segregation and classism. My mother went out of her way to help everyone she could. Food baskets would appear on the doorsteps of more needy friends and relatives. Money would be loaned with no expectation of repayment. And when my friend came out in the early 80’s, my mother comforted him when his own mother cried out of fear and shame. She told his mother to wake up, that this was still her son, and that she shouldn’t love him any less for his sexual choices. She taught me to give love freely. She taught me that a compliment cost you nothing to give, but was a gift that kept giving long after your words faded.
The most remarkable thing about my mom was that she became this amazing human being, and remained so, years after enduring an escape from the Philippines as the Japanese invaded her childhood home. My mother carried shrapnel scars from grenades that landed too close and killed some of her family members. She carried a bullet fragment near her spine throughout her entire life. I still have the x-ray as a reminder. (Like I need a reminder.) She lost a toe while trying to flee the area. As a young girl, she watched the soldiers as they killed friends and family, and all the other attrocities of a time of war that I can’t even fathom surviving.
Even after all that, she still became a beautiful woman who claimed that her riches came not from material things, but from the life and the family she was blessed to have.
On this day ten years ago, on the day that I lost the most amazing woman I’ve ever met, I remember my mother. If you like anything about me or my siblings, look up in the sky, and thank my mother. There is nothing I have, or I am, that I don’t owe to that wonderful woman.
You’re not gone Mom. You’re still in my soul, where I can feel you the most.