Today is my Mother’s birthday and Ive been sitting here for an hour trying to write an homage to her, illuminating the life she’s lived, thanking her for everything she’s done for me and our family, showing you all just what an incredible, beautiful person she is. But words fail me because the words to describe my Mother have yet to be invented.
Since I have neither the intellect nor the talent to wordsmith a proper or even adequate description of my Mother, let me tell you a few things about her:
She is the oldest of seven sisters which she left school after the fourth grade to help raise. And despite never having a formal “education” she’s one of the most intelligent, erudite women I have ever known.
She always had, and still has, today at the age of 81, the absolutely most beautiful, soft skin I have ever seen and felt. Rose petals and babies aint got nothing on my mom when it comes to gentleness.
She is incredibly humble. She’s never pined for fancy cars or fancy homes or expensive jewelry. She understands the English language perfectly, but will not speak it because of her humility.
She once had her home bombed, losing it all. Everything. Yet she built a new home with nothing but love, steel will and determination.
A Hurricane took that rebuilt home from her and she once again began anew. Never losing faith in God, never complaining about her fate and blaming nothing and noone for her circumstances.
She buried two of the sisters she helped raise, one in Cuba, whose grave remains untended and one here. She buried her parents in exile as well.
When she talks about Cuba she glows. As a child, when hearing my Mother tell a story about her life in Cuba, I believed that island to be a magical place because of the way she described it.
When she dances, she floats on air.
When she smiles, it lifts you, as if that smile was born to make you happy.
When she’s angry, bow your head and apologize, for she never angers without due cause.
She’s a Samurai with the dreaded “chancleta.”
She once emptied the entire contents of my room, tossing it all out in the front yard because I left without making my bed and picking up my clothes.
She would pour food on my head when I refused to eat it.
She would pack a little plastic bag full of sugar and Ovaltine every school day so I would have chocolate milk at lunch.
She worked full days at a factoria, sewing clothes, then come home and clean and cook. Our home was always immaculate and we never, ever, went hungry or ate “take-out.”
Boy, can she cook.
I think plants and flowers and trees talk to her. She can take a piece of dead branch and turn it into a tree, or a plant or a flower. When she ails, her garden ails.
She’s had 6 broken ribs, a broken pelvis, a broken clavicle and triple bypass surgery.
She’s put up with my old man for a lifetime.
When I totalled her car late one night and didnt tell her till morning, I didnt lose sleep because Id totalled her car. I lost sleep because I knew I had disappointed her.
When I received a creative writing award in College and stood there at the podium nervously reading the piece for which Id won, despite the room being full of students and faculty, it was she whom I was reading for.
She must have a special stash of BandAids for my wounds never heal quite as quickly or quite the same as when she tends to them.
She’s been on the receiving end of bigotry and racism and has comported herself with immeasurable dignity in the face of such ugliness.
She will save what few pennies she has left over for months and spend it on a gift for someone else.
She calls my wife “the usurper.”
She bought me the very first music album I ever owned: Deodato.
She is the family matriarch.
She has three grandchildern and two great-grandchildren and her spirit comes alive when she’s with them.
She is my Mom, and I am all the better for it.
Happy Birthday, Mami. The fruits of your labors are this beautiful, loving family which only you could have created.