Mama’s Face

A tita messaged me months ago and she said she’d been looking at my Facebook profile photos and this one photo of mine was what struck her the most because, she says, this is where you look like your mama the most.

And even though this wasn’t my favorite photo of myself then, it fast became just that.

And I’ve often looked at it. Hard.

The way I looked at the few photos of mama that I had as a child. In the summers when days stretched forever, I would sit myself down by the window of our old house, the beautiful house where she once held court and would look and look and look. And I would see her stare back at me. And often I would trace my fingers on my mother’s image– her eyes, her nose, her mouth, her chin, her hair.
I remember trying hard to remember things I had already forgotten about her–her voice and the half remembered songs that I woke up to in the middle of the night with a hunger I could not name.

And I almost found it startling that I once had a mother (Wow, really?? I had a mom?)  because I was so used to being the “motherless one”, the different one. The one who went to school with messed up, incomplete uniforms, hair all over the place, undone homework, school projects that were barely started, never finished. While my classmates had neatly ponytailed hair, crisply starched uniforms that I bet could stand on their own and projects turned in not just on time but completely and excellently  done as well.

And it was all I knew–how to get by one day after another without a mother to prop me up. And you know little kids—they have this maddening need to be propped up by their mothers. So I was a most unpropped up child. And I got by with a little help from my classmates who furtively passed pad papers, pencils, ballpens, recitation answers to me as needed.

So on those long summer days when I was free of the dizzying spin of school, I would sit down and for what seemed like interminable hours, hold a photo of my mother in the sun and I would gaze into it. For hours.

Like I was willing her back to life and to talk to me and tell me again the little stories she used to tell me and to sing to me again the million and one achy breaky love songs she used to sing to me (how she loved to sing, my mother.). And to touch me again the way she used to. And tell me again why it was she loved me and to beg her to come back because it was just awful being without her. How monsters had descended into my life and how there was nothing I could do to stop them from hurting me.

How papa was never around so these monsters could very well do as they pleased with me.

And why is it the sadness never leaves me even as I have grown strong enough to fight those monsters on my own so they no longer hold me in any significant way?

 

I feel the ache of all those years I walked the earth without Agnes Badoy. (48 years!)And I wonder~~~

would she have had a gentler gaze, I want to know? The resolute gaze of someone who had lived long and deep enough to have known her own strength, the width and breadth of her heart?

What would my mother have learned, had she lived longer than the 29 years she was, instead, given?

 

Would this obedient daughter to such demanding parents, dutiful wife to such an unfaithful/undeserving husband, unquestioning Catholic to such a treacherous religion—well would she have unshackled herself at some point and would she have finally learned not to give half a shit what others thought of her and put far more weight on how she regarded herself and the demands of her soul?
Would my mother have come into her own had she lived longer?

I stare at this photo of me that my tita says looks the most like my mother that it gave her the chills because it was as if my mother were staring back at her. And see if there are any answers there.

And find that all I can do is sit in the sadness and mystery of my mother’s profoundly brief life.

I think maybe someday I will gaze into this photo of mine and maybe I will search my heart and find that the sadness no longer lives there.

But today, I looked and saw that the sadness has remained.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Jovarie says:

    Thank you for this,Miss Lorraine. It is as if you were talking about my Mama too.. and me. I’ve been there too, felt it too. I attended my own PTA meetings, I was also the one “who went to school with messed up, incomplete uniforms, hair all over the place, undone homework, school projects”.. I, too wonder how I ever survived life for 16years now without my mother. And yes, the sadness is still there.. but I’ll hold on to it if it’s the only way I could still hold a grasp of her. Gosh, I had a good cry because of your post, thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. this is our samahan, jovarie. the sisterhood/brotherhood of motherless daughters/sons. mother loss is so primal. in the most secret spaces of our mother was were we first swam –in her primordial sea. ‘mother’ is stamped in our deepest places. there’s just no way we can forget our mother—even when we think we have forgotten her. or even when we think we are over her. over and over, she will be in our souls.

      i wish i could hug you, jovarie. what a journey it has been for you too. good job! you got to adulthood -maybe in not one piece, maybe in shattered pieces–but still you got here.

      let

      Like

    2. thank you jovarie. you and i belong to the same club of motherless sons and daughters. and we all know what a journey that is. i wish i could hug you for real. i know what that journey has been like–even though i may not know the details to it.

      i wish i could hug you. ❤

      Like

  2. bing veloso says:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pie says:

    beutifully written . Loosing someone you love will always be searching, longing, missing ….. I feel sad 😭 . Wee… I will always cry with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. pie! thank you for sitting by my side and crying with me. the contours of loss, we are both familiar with. i hold your hand through all these.

      Like

  4. Zi says:

    This one tugs my heart.
    Hugs Doc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. salamat, zi, for listening to my story of my mama ❤

      Like

  5. Ann says:

    Hi Dr. Lorraine,

    This piece made me cry. Missing my Nanay too right now who’s in Pinas. Lost my dad when I was 7 & I envied kids who are so happy with their dads back then. Anyways, I didn’t know you have a blog & thank you so much for accepting my friend request on facebook. Please continue to write. You are a brilliant writer. Your writings are like Episodes on Movies on Netflix that makes me like “isa na lang kasi madaling araw na” hehe. Number 1 fan here. Please keep writing coz I love all the things you post on fb as well. Ingat po palagi.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi ann! thank you so much for taking the time to read me and then write me about it. i deeply appreciate it. and parang magic when what i write resonate with others.

      i am so sorry about your loss and at such a tender age. what a journey parent loss at sucha young age is! you and i both know this. but if i were to go by my own journey–and the teachings of joseph campbell and carl jung whom i both cling to— this journey of pain and grief has the potential to shape you into a most compassionate human being. the loss we suffered has made us so tender and it has cracked us open so we bleed for ourselves and can’t help but bleed for others too.

      thanks again, ann ❤

      Like

  6. Bessie Bactad Alqueza-Parrocha says:

    I admire you doc Lorraine! Your early loss made you what you are now, strong!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bessie, thank you. that’s the paradox to all these–how, in our losses lie the potential for some of our biggest gifts. we only need the courage to face them and then, too, to get the wisdom it tries to give us. hey big hug, bessie ❤

      Like

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