Today is Nov. 8, my mom’s birthday. It’s really unfortunate that I couldn’t be home to celebrate with her and even worse that I couldn’t afford to get her a gift. Instead of an I.O.U. though, I thought that I’d write something to her this year, considering I haven’t written her a card since elementary school.
Back then, I’m pretty sure it looked something like: “I lov u mom. U r so bootifull and smart and kind. Thank u for taking care of me. Happy birthday – Kino.”
If I could get away with just saying that again, I would. I still stand by everything that I said back then. I don’t mind repeating myself, though, because not everybody does believe it.
Most people would describe her as rude, offensive or simply unladylike. I remember one woman on Yelp had the audacity to refer to her as “the always nasty office manager.” Sure, some of those things are true. She says “move” instead of “excuse me,” laughs in people’s faces and engages in some sort of disagreement every day.
I don’t see a crotchety, “always nasty” woman, though. I see a woman who stands up for herself and what she believes in.
A few years ago, she got into a screaming match with somebody in the parking lot of a fancy restaurant. As annoyed as I was seeing her in another altercation, she was completely in the right.
She’d asked a man in a suit if he was a valet driver, and, instead of simply saying “no,” he looked her up and down and said, “No. Do I look Mexican?” Being a proud Mexican woman, she responded without missing a beat: “No. You look like you’re wearing a cheap suit. That’s why I asked.”
My mom always tells me to pick my battles and to keep my head low when something isn’t worth fighting for. I know that this is advice to keep me out of trouble, but I would much rather follow her lead.
I’d much rather let the world know when I feel like something is wrong, getting into trouble every step of the way, than lay submissively as the world walks over me. She’s shown me that there is always something to fight for, that what I think matters.
My mom always puts in 110% effort into everything.
She fights much in the same way she loves, and I have never seen somebody love the way that she does. When someone or something matters to her, she does everything in her power to show it, and she isn’t afraid to play favorites. She broke up with her boyfriend of seven years because she wanted to spend more time with her cat. She maxed out all of her credit cards moving me up to Berkeley. I’ve seen her drop everything and leave work immediately when somebody calls her and says they need help.
It always surprises me with how strongly she loves because every story that she’s told me about her past has been about the little love she experienced, especially from her family.
The story that stuck out to me was of a walk with her father in her 20s. On their stroll, a girl from the neighborhood rode past them on their bike. With immediate disgust, my grandfather looked at my mom and said:
“I can’t stand that little girl. She reminds me so much of you.”
When I hear these stories and her subsequent sobbing asking what she’d done wrong, it hurts. Sure, my mom can be abrasive and difficult to get along with but that doesn’t mean she deserves to be left alone. Nobody deserves that.
And perhaps that’s why she loves so hard. My mom wants to let the people she loves know that they aren’t alone. Seeing how much happiness she’s brought to counteract the pain she’s experienced, I’m impressed and strive to do the same. For her and for others.
As much as I use humor as my defense mechanism, I don’t genuinely laugh very often. In fact, on the rare occasion where I do truly laugh, people are taken aback. Maybe most people aren’t funny, but she is one of the few people who can make me laugh any time. I just FaceTimed her 30 minutes ago, crying after an anxiety attack. In those 30 minutes, she had me crying from laughter. Thanks for that, Mom.
Sometimes I wonder if people get surprised by my laugh because of its sound rather than its sudden appearance. It’s loud. It’s high-pitched. It’s basically a witch-cackle.
It’s her laugh.
I want to laugh more. Sure, I want to share happiness and love, but more importantly, I want to share the pieces of her that I always carry to the people in my life, to the world.
And to her — I love you, Mom. You are so beautiful, smart and kind. Thank you for taking care of me. Happy birthday.