When my mother passed away in July 2005, she left behind four daughters, of which I’m the oldest. My siblings were 18, 15 and 8 at the time . Though it has been hard and painful, we have survived. Our loss has strengthened our bond even more, and next to my daughter I love and cherish my sisters more than anything on this earth. Six years have gone by, and two of my sisters have joined me in adulthood. We’ve had to navigate the rapids of life without her. And there are those around us-family and friends alike-who do not approve of the way that we have decided to live and the choices that we have made as adults. Ignoring the fact that we are grown women with children of our own, they speak to us as if we were still little girls playing hopscotch. Though their opinion on our decisions is not solicited or desired, they share it anyway. And when they really want to get their way, they invoke the memory of our beloved mother in a cheap attempt to guilt trip us into bending to their will. Lips dripping with smug self-righteousness they sneer: What would YOUR MOTHER SAY about your religious views? What would YOUR MAMA SAY about what you’re wearing?
When such comments were said to me, I was able to bite my tongue and keep my cool. When others say it to my sisters, however, I become blind with rage. They were babies when we lost our mother, and that wound still hurts deeply. These people attempt to manipulate my sisters emotions. But what pisses me off the most is the fact that they are using my mothers legacy to prop up their bully pulpit. These people take my mothers life-her mind, her hopes, her experiences, and her dreams-and mold it into a weapon that is used to verbally bludgeon those who are the very evidence of her existence on this planet: her daughters.
Unfortunately for such folks, I do not suffer from Alzheimers’. My mind is very sharp, as are my memories of my mother. I would never disrespect her by putting words her mouth as others have attempted to. But I can clearly recall what I saw and heard when she was alive.
In my mind I see my Mom when in 1986, dancing around and screeching at the top of her lungs every Sunday-not at church, but in our living room whenever her team made a touchdown. I see her in the summer of 2001,watching me as I sauntered through the living room clad in a white tank top that fit me like a second skin,black g-string peeking out from low-rise jeans so tight that they looked painted on, and platform sandals on my feet. My mother looked at me, eyes completely void of the toxic mix of scorn, bitterness and envy that I usually saw in women older than me, smiled at me and laughed:”GOODNESS, with that shape you could be a video girl!” My sister and I brought my mom’s joke to life, immediately “popping” and gyrating across the floor in our best video vixen imitation. She laughed so hard that she almost had an asthma attack. And I see her in 2004 preparing for her nightly ritual once she was done cleaning-a hot bath with a freshly rolled blunt.
I could go on and on with memories of my life with my Mom, but it’s not necessary. I could never forget the woman who loved and carried me for nine months, the woman who loved and fought for me until she died. And the woman that I knew and loved in life is not the same as the person that others have already started constructing in their heads. In just six years my lovely and enigmatic mother has gone from a flesh and blood reality to a manufactured myth, used by others to push their own views. It really troubles me and it makes me wonder. If people who knew my mother could have the unmitigated gall to try to fabricate a new identity for her and sell such a fraud to her own daughters, who is to say that people have not done the same thing on macro level throughout history?