My mama didn’t mean to raise a free spirit.
She has always been a cautious one, the kind of woman who calculated her thoughts carefully, thinking of it over and over before daring to make a move. She worried plenty, played little. She clutches rosary beads and offers hushed prayers when she’s nervous, skepticism crowding her brows more often than I would like.
She is a beautiful closed flower with delicate petals, often shut for protection (after all, the world is a cruel place). But yet, she opens eventually, and when she does, you feel like the luckiest person in the world.
I don’t take brave leaps of faith, I bungee jump. I throw caution into the wind and fly. I follow my intuition more than I follow conventional wisdom. I follow the signs of the Universe with my heart open, my ears to the sky. She looks at me with those furrowed brows, clenched most especially when I cry out New Age theories.
“Oh come on, Ma! Don’t put that negative energy out there! Our thoughts attract things!”
She shakes her head, knowing America must have raised her daughter into irrational idealism.
I’ll just say I’ll admit to being a hippie.
“So, what are you going to do with your life?” she asks.
I want to change the world, Ma.
“Hala! Change the World! And how will you get paid???? You want to work for non-profit? What about your profit?”
I shrug. God and the Universe will provide, I say.
I walk away, defeated. She doesn’t understand.
Once, I found a photo of my mama, looking like a blooming orchid on the first day of spring. She looked like a goddess. Her eyes laughed, and even in the photo, you could see the wind blushing as her hips danced with the air. I smiled, recognizing that even at 22 years old, her reservations are there, struggling to hold back this freedom I hardly ever get to see in her.
My father took this picture. Here, she is in love. Free.
I wish she’d let go again.
Last summer, I had the Tagalog song “Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko (You Are the Miss Universe of My Life) ” on repeat every morning for two weeks straight. Somehow, I had an inexplicably familiar love for that song.
A few weeks later, on a call with my dad, I asked how my mom was. “Oh you know, she’s at work. Alam mo na man (You know). She’s always working.”
I frowned. “Mama needs time to relax, Pa.”
“Well, what can we do? Life is hard, Bing.”
I take a deep sigh. “I know, Pa. Hey, have you ever heard about that Miss Universe Tagalog song before?’
“Yes, of course. That was the song I dedicated to your mom.”
Boom. No wonder.
Immigrant mother, first generation daughter
Separated by first and third world ideology;
I know sometimes she wishes life were as simple
As the lullabies she used to sing me.
We misunderstand each other often. I interpret her hold on safety and security to be restricting, while she finds my unconventional career path reckless. She’s only looking out for me, I know.
But somehow our words end up like broken glass littering our feet in silent wreckage.
She, who works endlessly for her family, and I, with the fortunate privilege to love the world enough to want to save it.
She gave me that privilege. She is my savior, my anchor.
Last year, I was granted with a chance to pursue what I thought was my dream job. After years of hard work, I had a chance to compete for an opportunity of a lifetime. My mama was my biggest cheerleader. I pictured her at night, clutching her rosary beads, with hushed prayers asking God to please lend me his favor. For two and a half months, I put my heart into it, gave it my all. In the end, I was told I didn’t get the job.
I was heartbroken.
I called her, crying to her on the phone.
I’m proud of you.”
I hope she knows I’m proud of her, too.
She keeps closed for protection, for safety. I understand now that this is how my mama loves – with a heart for a shield, sometimes like iron, to safeguard us from harm. But when her heart opens, I know without a doubt, I am the luckiest person in the world.
And my poor worry wart of a mother, it must be the Universe’s irony to give her not one, but two overachieving, fearless daughters, bungee jumping down fate’s cliff, diving for our dreams with firm resolve.
Cautiously, she lets us fly.
My mama, the Goddess.
She is the Miss Universe of my life.