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My mother is a Pisces. Somehow, I have always known she was a creature of the water. Her hand was always cool when I had my fevers. The sickly child that I was, I delighted in being home alone with mother, tended by her soothing fingers.

When will she decide to go home? When is she going to cross the sea and make peace? I am her daughter. Can I really send her back to her birthplace, to her father who seeks forgiveness? But my mother is not a sweet impressionable Pisces. In this respect she is a Pisces man who refuses to follow the current, and grapples the flow of water with her hands.

Her second name is Joy. Everyone calls her that. Ma’am Joy. Ate Joy. Mana Joy. My sister has her second name. My sister also has my mother’s mother’s name. I do not have a Joy in my name. What are their secrets? These three secretive, quiet women of my life, what is it they’re not telling me? While my sister can simply raise her brows at Joy, why is it that I have always sought to hold her soothing hands? Why do I think they are magical hands?

She gave birth twice and has three children. She is eldest of nine siblings. How many things can I list about my mother? When I talk to her I am not her child. No longer. We are different, she and I. I am the daughter who plays with pretensions, always civil, always polite. She is what you see is what you get. When she is angry she does not smile. When she is angry she retreats into her silence, and she will not speak for weeks. Will walk around the house like I’m furniture. Will not eat dinner. Will only stare at me even when I’m sniveling an I’m sorry. I have grown accustomed to my mother’s quiet. I am the survivor of her cold war. I suffer from war shock. I am a trauma patient from the blow of her silence. I have sought to embody my mother’s forbearance, but through that film between mother and child, I always appear to her transparent. And she keeps on telling me control, ebb and recede, this is how you bend water. Never flood. Struggle, panic, and you lose yourself to the water. Grapple the water. Learn to lie. Learn to poker face, be the roiling current beneath the placid surface. Between the fish and the scorpion, the water is hers. She is the eminent ruler of insight and intuition.

She suddenly forgot how to hug her children when they were no longer babies. For a long, long time she would not laugh at jokes. I hated her early, the way my sister hates her now. I hated her for thinking we hated her. I hated her for asking many years ago whether she should stay or go. Who asks that of a child? Who asks that of a child? I hate that child who answered back in her little tremulous voice stay because she could not bear the thought of a broken family. Selfish brat why stop Joy from flight? So what is love to a Pisces? It is the chain that holds the Pisces to her child, Aphrodite to Eros, fish tail to fin tail so that they do not lose each other in the world’s ocean. But who casts the line? Is it the mother or the child?

I hated Joy for not hiding in her silence my father’s infidelities. I am being unfair. My mother was quiet all that time. Yet I knew. Ultimately, those many years ago, I hated how I just watched her suffer, for me, for my sister, for my brother, who may have known, who knows, they are always quiet, the lot of them, no one ever knows what they’re thinking, the lot of them, but I knew, and I was quiet. I did not make any noise. Now, years later, my mother and I we talk about the years we were quiet. We talk about them.

This was a creative non-fiction writing assignment submitted ca 2009. 


Written by thedoe

December 9, 2008 at 12:24 am