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Like Mother, Like Daughter?
Until I had my first heartbreak, I never understood how much my mother has effected me, how similar we are. At the time, I was drowning in a suppressing depression that left me isolated mentally. Being stuck in my mind for such a long time left me no choice but to think about my life, the events that had led up to my demise.
The heartbreak happened after a boyfriend of nearly six months bailed on me and refused to keep trying to keep our slowly dying relationship alive. I hadn’t seen it coming, or rather, I chose not to see it. We knew each other for six years prior, and it had taken all of those six years to finally catch me; he had been trying to since the third grade. It seemed like we were perfect at the time- he had what I didn’t-the boldness, the passion. It was definitely a case of opposites attracting. But our timing wasn’t right and we were both in the middle of a transition to our separate high schools and I was adjusting badly. I was giving up on making new connections with the foreign people of my new school and was instead clutching onto him, my only connection to the person I was before the change. I was falling into a pattern in school: arrive, work, get stuck in my mind until bell rings, leave, wait for Michael to call. He was a lifeline and I threw everything into that one person. So when I had finally gotten the call that said, simply, “Can we just be friends?” I was devastated. And that’s when I began to think.
At first it was just focused on a sliver of my time being here, the events in the year that added up to this one moment. But then, my eyes began to open into me, and I began to analyze myself, how all the actions in my life had added up to choosing this one person. And then I arrived at one source- summer of sixth grade when I was confronted with my first boyfriend.
His name was Gregory and he was two years older than me and had first caught my attention when my friend’s brother yelled to me as I was riding by on my bike, “Zakia! Gregory says he likes you!” I had no idea who this person was but just the idea of a new boy actually liking me. He wasn’t like the immature boys in my class, he was two years older than me and actually went out of his way to get me flowers. Sure, it was actually a plant instead of a bouquet, but it was the thought that counted. But I was insecure and young, and when Gregory’s younger brother told me that Gregory’s been exchanging letters with some girl named Samantha, I believed him and didn’t listen to Gregory deny the accusations. The little thing we had going on between us eventually dissolved from existence.
Even though our relationship faded away, the attraction between us didn’t fail and instead crashed like waves between like and hate. We collided with each other violently; we weren’t meant to be together but as the years progressed, we both became more likable and more hate-worthy. I hated how he flitted from girl to girl but would always come back to flirt with me after; he hated the way I stuck my nose up at his nonsensical behavior with his friends. But we never failed to come back together to flirt and push each other around for one night, and then hate each other for the rest of the week. I harbored an array of feelings for Gregory for years but no matter what, there was always a tiny bit of like present.
When I was younger, I never thought my parents had a great relationship together. It was never really obvious that there was any love present. There was just a sense of parntership and politeness. When I was younger there was more love present, but as the years progressed, it was obvious that there was something wrong in the pairing. I’m sure it wasn’t like this before I arrived in the picture, my mom would tell me of dates that my dad would take her on and there would have had to be a love strong enough for my dad to leave his wife for my mother, and for my mother to deal with the consequences of being involved with a man who had four kids prior to their meeting. She took care of my soon-to-be brothers and sisters like her own, and my dad worked hard to be a father figure for my mother’s son, Mikey. But there was one event that happened between my parents after I was born that upset their union.
When I was fifteen, a week after one of my little sister’s visits, my mom told me why she had a problem when Maya came over. I sat down with her in our kitchen and she told me frankly that after my parents had moved to our new house, my parents hit a road bump and my father cheated on my mother. She told me that Maya was a constant reminder of the action and every time she is brought in front of her, it’s like rubbing it in her face. My mother, at that one moment, appeared to me as a real person, with deeper feelings than what was shown on the outside. I saw the hint of helplessness in her eyes, the angry fire burning through the most. She was real, and at that moment, I realized that she had shed away the perfect facade of ‘mother’ to be real and truthful with her daughter. The cheerfulness of the weather seemed to mock me as my mother talked and I interjected, “But Maya is the innocent one in all of this.” At which my mother replied that she is aware of that, but she is just a mere human and no matter how much she tries to tell herself that, her emotions get in the way and the only thing she can do is isolate herself when she comes around.
The walls of our roles, ‘mother’ and ‘child’ had cracked and we found ourselves being faced with each other as two, three-dimensional people. I felt myself grow up as I listened to my mother say the inevitable, “Your father and I may be getting a divorce after you leave for college. We’ve been working hard to stay together so you could have a two-parent family, but in the future, we’ll never know. Maybe I’ll stay and maybe I won’t. I’m sorry.”
My mother was cracking and my insides were bending and twisting with the weight of this newfound bone. Another piece of my mother revealed. I silently got up from my frozen perch in the chair across from her and walked into her arms to be cradled against her trembling body. It seemed to me that as I got up and looked into her glassy eyes that we switched roles; for just one moment, I was the comforter.
For me, Michael was my comforter but when he left, I held onto the scraps of our relationship. The love was still there, and scattered through time there were enough phone conversations to keep me hooked. Through the months afterward, Michael encouraged and used the feelings left to keep me just in reach, and emergency contact that he could always come back to. “We’re the type of people who keep coming back together,” he said to me once, while we were still together. And we did. Every time we saw each other after the breakup Michael loved to play make-believe that we were still together, and unfortunately I played along too. A repeat of my experience with Gregory, Michael and I crashed between love and hate. It took months before I could ward off the leap in my heart when I heard his name, and more months before I could handle not having the urge to become sick when I heard of him with someone else.
My mom once told me that a long time before I was born, she and my dad broke up. She had gotten her hair cut in a new short style and was one day walking down the street looking particularly sharp and ran into my father. “He was so surprised,” She laughed, “All he could say was, ‘Hmph. You cut your hair.’” I sat there smiling with my mom, happy that she had gotten the most important part of a break-up down pat. My meetings-after-breaking-up were plentiful and not always so satisfying. My last one, though, was the best, yet bittersweet. At my friend’s Soph Hop at the school that Michael also attended, I arrived looking my best, and though I was not in the comfort of my own school, made sure to walk through it like I frequented it. I knew that the best revenge towards Michael was to be as happy as possible, to be satisfied in my new life without him. I saw the twinkle in his eye as I approached him for a hello hug and I knew I completed my first task. Unfortunately, I knew that he was bringing a date to the dance, and when I saw her, I felt my heart betray me in it’s shocked stutter. The party itself was good, I held up my happy front and pushed away my silent and lurking fears that I would unknowingly walk into Michael and his date dancing, or worse, kissing.
Once, when I was very young, I walked into the middle of a nasty argument between my mother and father. I didn’t understand what was happening since it was already descending from it’s climax, my parents were both furious and my mother turned away from my father in the kitchen and stomped up the steps. The whole house was thick with unresolved problems and tension-causing insults. I went upstairs into my parent’s large bedroom to the island in the middle of a sea of sheets, my mother. I had never seen her so hurt. I remember seeing her empty eyes, glassy from withheld tears and I wanted to hug her. Hugging her seemed to be the only thing I could think of to give comfort from this mysterious boo boo, but my bony embraces didn’t work at all. I went downstairs and into the basement, where I found my father stony-faced and going through shelves of tools and appliances; something for him to distract himself with. I asked him what was wrong with mommy, and he told me he got angry with her and said something that hurt her feelings. My heart squeezed with my mother’s pain for a couple weeks; it took her a while to recover from the emotional beat-down.
Crying because of a boy was one of my all time pet-peeves when it came to other people. I could never fathom why someone would let another person influence their emotions until Michael and I broke up. When I’d arrive home from school everyday my mother would see the sadness etched in my eyes, hair, skin. It overwhelmed me until I was as glassy as she when an argument broke loose between her and my father, and she was reflected in my shell. My mother would do her best to ask what was wrong and be patient, but she saw our resemblance, knew that I would take time to open up. When I finally revealed myself, in the comfort of her bed one early spring night, I saw her listen and understand completely.
I wish someone had told me the truth in the saying “Like mother, like daughter.” My mother and I are not two of a kind; we have our differences. But when it come to the subtle things, the tiny hairline cracks that come with the colliding of a mother and daughter’s experiences, it’s not the things we do that makes my mother and I so similar, it’s the way we handle them, how we take what is dealt to us and store them in our bosoms to eat away at us; our mirrored vulnerabilities that show what is hidden in our souls.