Writing is my first love. I've loved writing ever since I was in the second grade. It has always been my favorite way of expressing myself. Few things can compare to the feelings and emotions I have when I put pen to paper (or in this case, fingertips to keyboard). Photography has become the forefront of my blog and I've purposely allowed it to replace my writing. But I've come to realize something. I'm both a writer and a photographer. As a matter of fact, I took pride in the fact that my blog was initially entitled: "Written Reflections and Photographs." Today I have my writer's hat on. I have been reflecting on mother-daughter relationships - particularly my own relationship with my mother. I wrote an essay about it and wanted to share it on here. No pictures today. Just words.
When I was a teenager I used to think I hated my mom. What teenage girl doesn’t hate her mom right? Well, my sisters didn’t hate my mom. They all had great relationships with her. I, on the other hand never had a close relationship with her growing up. She was always quiet and reserved (a little too quiet and reserved if you ask me), and it made me dislike her. I guess it was because my dad was so vocal. If he liked something or didn’t like it he would voice his opinion. My mother never had an opinion - ever. I thought it was annoying at the time. My mom was the total opposite of my father. She was a petite woman about 5’4”, and my dad was 6 feet tall. She was meek and mild and he was burly and intimidating. Sometimes my mom used my dad against me. He was the disciplinarian and my mom was “the snitch” (as I secretly called her). Whenever she snitched on me I’d always glare at her and ask: “I guess you’re not so quiet are you?”
“O le a ea le mea e ke faapega mai ai ia ke a’u?”
“What am I doing to you?” I’d sneered at her. My sneering was usually accompanied by some serious eye rolling. The more dramatic I made my eyes roll, the more offensive it was to my mom. “You’re the one who snitched on me,” I’d continued.
I would never give her a chance to respond because I would turn on my heel and stomp right out of the room. I remember on several occasions I would slam my bedroom door thinking the most horrible thoughts about her. I hated her. That was what it was like for me and my mom. Things never got better. She continued to snitch on me and I continued to misbehave.
After my dad graduated from college he decided to move us all from California to Samoa. My parents felt it was a better place to raise a family. My father and my older brother moved to Samoa first. They were gone for four months before they came back to get the rest of us.
It was decided that I stay with my dad’s older sister Ave, while my dad and brother were gone. Ave was the meanest aunt in the whole family. I guess my mom figured she was the only person that could handle me while my dad was away. She wasn’t wrong about that one.
My aunt lived in Compton, in a three bedroom house that had bars on every window. Not once did I question her authority. She was just like my dad; strong, burly and intimidating. She was the type of person that didn’t take any bullshit from anyone (least of all a cheeky little kid like me). She had me figured out from day one and didn’t even hesitate to lay down the law. I wasn’t allowed to have any friends, or bring anyone over to the house. I wasn’t allowed to miss church, or use the telephone (unless my younger sisters or my mom called). I was starting to feel as if I was in prison, and Ave was the warden.
For the first few weekends I only talked to my sisters and baby brother. My mom would call but never asked to talk to me. At first I was fine with it but after the third weekend I was beginning to wonder if my mom was ever going to want to talk to me. I was convinced that my mom was just trying to teach me a lesson. Okay, lesson learned. When the fourth weekend approached I just knew she was going to ask to talk to me. She hung up without even asking for me. I was so heartbroken that I cried myself to sleep that night.
The next day I woke up feeling empty and alone. I missed my mom so much. For the first time in a long time I got down on my knees and prayed. Through sobs and snot I asked God to forgive me for treating my mom the way I did. I made a promise that if I got a chance to talk to her on the phone I would apologize and tell her how much I love and appreciate her.
That Friday, I waited anxiously for the phone to ring and like clockwork, at six in the evening, my mom called. I wanted to run to the phone but I knew my aunt was already in the living room where the phone was. She answered the phone and began by telling my mom that I was doing fine. I was on pins and needles as I stood in the doorway of my room waiting for my aunt to call me to come to the phone. Thirty minutes after their conversation I heard my aunt hang up the receiver.
I guess my mom didn’t want to talk to me. Why would she? I was evil to her. I couldn’t hold it in. I started to sob uncontrollably. It got so loud I was afraid my aunt would hear me so I closed the door. I knelt beside my bed and buried my face in my pillow trying to muffle the sound of my sobs.
There was a knock at my bedroom door. I immediately wiped my face with my shirt and tried to control the sound coming from inside of me. I got off my knees, turned out the lights and climbed into bed under the covers.
“Mena, are you still up?” It was my aunt.
“Uhh.” I tried to sound groggy as if I were half asleep.
“Mena, o lou kiga lea ua koe kolo mai.”
“Your mom called back for you,” she repeated in English.
I popped up so quickly that I didn’t notice she was already in the room. She had dragged the phone into the room with her and placed it on my bed. In my excitement I knocked the phone onto the floor. I immediately scrambled for the phone and grabbed onto the receiver as if it was going to disappear.
“Mom?” My lips quivered as I said her name.
I never noticed how sweet my mom’s voice was. It was soft and melodic and I couldn’t help but cry.
“Mommy, I - I muh-muh-miss you” I managed to say between sobbing.
“I miss you too Mena,” she said sweetly.
“ I’m sorry for being a hard-head to you. I love you.”
After our conversation I said a prayer of thanks. I finally realized that I never hated my mom. I just didn’t understand her. I had to be separated from her in order to see that. She is quiet and reserved because she likes to absorb things or situations before she responds or expresses her opinion. When she does respond, it’s always in a gentle, sweet, way. I’m so grateful that I changed my ways because I would have missed out on knowing what a great mom I have. All that “hate” (which wasn’t really hate) is now replaced with love, respect, and a lesson learned.