My mom says quite often that she’s proud of me. She looks into my apparently shining, adolescent, coming-of-age eyes, and says just that — that she’s proud. I’ve never really known where it stems from, and maybe I need to abandon this constant need to know. I get it from her, obviously, but she doesn’t like to be questioned about it. People say it’s a reflection of her love. She loves me unconditionally, so her pride at how her blood turned out shouldn’t be conditional either. There’s no reason for it.There doesn’t need to be one every time.
But I know there’s more. Of course there is. I know my mom — at least I think I do.
The other day she had come back home tired. Exhausted, even. Like a droopy sunflower deprived of the sun. I watched her walk into the gloomy, dark washroom, disappearing into the blur. Almost instantly after that I heard a cheerful, “How was your day, baby? I missed you!”
She was smiling like she woke up on the first day of summer, ready to bloom. I wasn’t even perplexed by this. This has happened before, many, many times.
The sunflower becomes her own sunshine. She needs not more than a minute for this. One moment alone, and somehow, everything seems pulled together, yet another time.
I never stop her in that moment of tired vulnerability. I never ask how she is doing. Is her heart at peace? Is she happy? I don’t want to know answers to questions I’m afraid of knowing. Is she getting everything she ever wanted from her life? She’s still young, you know? She can grab any star she eyes. She is, in fact, one herself. She just needs to try to, maybe, put herself before any of us — just for once.
I could be so wrong, though. With her, you can never know. She radiates so brightly, in clear porcelain skin and colourful clothes that it’s hard to even question its validity. Mom, are you proud of me because I’m living a life you wish you did? Or is it simply because you love me? Do you wish for more? Or are you content? I think you are. But if you’re not, do you know you can talk to me? I could be your ground in case you need one. You are one of the strongest women I know, so resilient and beautiful that it’s hard to not fall in love with you. But do you know that you don’t always need to be?
Mothers and daughters are mirrors, I have heard. Reflecting onto each other, constantly. They exist in relation to each other, whether they hate it or wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s simply nothing they can do about it. You see in your mother’s eyes a world you yearn for – everything you either wish to be, or everything you know you don’t want to. Your mother finds, somewhere hidden, the girl she wished she could have been when she sees your eyes.
So mother, if this is true, I wish I am like you, and not the other way around. I wish and pray every day that it is you that reflects on me, not vice versa. If you are however, god forbid, anything like me, I know you need to be held and reassured. I know you probably hide your pain far beneath your happiness. If that is true, mother, please let me be there for you.
I don’t tell you that I am hurting very often, especially if I am away from you. Your peace matters so much more to me than mine. I assume so easily that you are, in fact, at peace. So I don’t think I will ever tell you, mom. I think I will simply watch you smile as you hum nursery rhymes, twirl in your newest kurti and wear the jhumkas I got you, and I think I will let your small moments of contentment with yourself heal me too. I don’t ask if you are hurting inside, ever. If I do, will you tell me?
I need to know desperately if we are stuck being versions of each other. If we both hide sorrow from each other, show each other a version we act out every day to the world. If we both feel misunderstood and hold our tongue about it. I need to know you for sure. I know that you never wish to worry me, that no matter what crisis, small or large befalls you, you will not let it cast a single shadow on me. I know your love and selflessness knows no bound, I know your unwanted strength. I know because I do the same. I know because I am, indeed, you. So many of my favourite qualities come from you, but what if my anxiety, my overthinking, my tendency to deal with pain alone, also come from you? I have growing pains even at twenty, mom. They came back after a decade. What if they are supposed to return periodically? What if you have them too, and you think no one will understand? What if you’re just as good at hiding them from me as I am from you?
So maybe, just maybe, when you return home tired the next time, instead of being a silent cowardly spectator, I will hold you. Maybe I will let you stay there in silence. No, you don’t need to ask about my day. No, you don’t need to heat the food, you don’t need to smile for me; not if you don’t want to. If you cry, I will hold you for as long as you need. And if you just smile and laugh, like you always do, I’ll still hold you, relieved and hopeful that maybe, one day, I will be just like you.
Isn’t that our purpose anyway? Aren’t we supposed to be relative to each other?
In blood and flesh,
Mind and body,
As mother and daughter
I sincerely hope as we grow. I hope I become more you than you become me.
Sunflower and bud.