My Mami was never my hero. And I wasn’t hers either. As long as I can remember, we had a relationship where we merely tolerated each other.
January 1, 2020
A new year. I’m thirty years old, and I still live in my childhood bedroom, under Mami’s roof, in this run down, poor excuse for a house that I grew up in. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry. But I don’t cry. I’m tougher than all that.
I didn’t cry when my Papi left even though he broke my fragile five-year-old heart. I was daddy’s little girl. He made me promise to be a good girl, to be strong, and make him proud. He promised to see me soon.
One of us kept our promises.
I suppose I held a grudge against Mami all of these years. Why couldn’t she have been just a little nicer to Papi? He would have stayed, and we would have been a normal family. Maybe I would have had a brother or sister.
Bring an only child with an only parent is lonely.
Yet, I made friends, and they became my family. And like my family, they would eventually disappoint me and move on.
Just so you understand, I’m not complaining – I’m simply telling it like it is.
Mami thinks I’m dumb. I’m not.
It’s true; I don’t have a college degree like her. But I have a good job where I am appreciated.
I’m a telephone sales rep for Jayco, a company that sells refurbished auto parts. It’s not a sexy job, but I make good money, the bosses are fair, and I have job security. I’ve worked at Jayco so long that I’ve outlasted most of the senior management.
Mami is embarrassed when her other teacher friends at school ask about me. I’ve overheard her mumble brief responses;
“Yesenia is fine; she goes to work and comes home; I’d like her to meet somebody…”
Or this one;
“It’s never easy with Yesenia. You know how it is with daughters…”
May 1, 2020
It was mid-March when the pandemic came crashing through our house like a lightning bolt of awareness. Jayco is an essential business; warehouse workers will be working onsite, taking extra precautions to get the products out. Office workers like me are working remotely until the virus passes.
My computers came home with me, and we upped the internet speed coming through the house. The dining room alcove is now my office.
The public schools shut down early. It looks like Mami may be done teaching for the year. For the first time in many long years, the two of us are together in the house, long days and early evenings to bed.
You know what? It’s not so bad, after all. Mami is relaxed in a way I’ve never seen before. She’s not rushing around to meet her friends or do her church work. Instead of grading papers at night, she’s reading books for pleasure. She’s learning to cook. She’s happier than I have ever known her to be.
And a funny thing happened along the way. Mami came to terms with my career choice.
“Yesenia, I’ve been listening to you talk with your customers. I had no idea you have such an extensive knowledge of auto parts. You are so calm and helpful on the phone. I’m proud of you, mi corazoncita (sweetheart).”
I didn’t know it beforehand, but when Mami complimented me, I realized it was exactly what I needed to hear. My Mami is finally proud of me.
September 1, 2020
Mami’s school district implemented remote learning. Virus cases are on the rise, and it’s not safe for students and teachers to go back to the classroom. My mother converted her bedroom into a classroom. She hung a bulletin board behind her desk and decorated it in a back-to-school theme. Her computer monitor is poised in the center of the desk, and Mami sits propped up by a pillow on our wingback chair, which she dragged in from the living room for comfort. Mami is working long days with barely time for breaks. I had no idea how hard she worked.
Teaching second graders takes patience and skill. Mami has both.
“How do you do it?” I ask. “Those kids never stop calling your name. ‘Mrs. Rodriquez, Mrs. Rodriquez, Mrs. Rodriquez!!!’ I couldn’t last a minute before I’d be yelling SHADDDUPPPP”
We both have a good laugh, and then I say, “Mami, you are a very good teacher. I can see how much you mean to those kids.”
I hug my mother, and we both get teary-eyed in the midst of our unaccustomed affection. Kisses and hugs were long overdue, but I resolve to make it a habit in the future.
Christmas Day, 2021
Mami and I go to church together and then to a steak house for an early Christmas dinner. The pandemic is history, and life is normal again. But it isn’t pre-pandemic normal. It is a new normal filled with love, affection, and genuine admiration between Mami and me.
We exchange gifts at the restaurant. Mami gives me jewelry. It’s a pendant on a delicate gold chain. I take it out of the box, open the clasp, and slip it around my neck. It is a solid gold lightning bolt, symbolic of our mutual “Come to Jesus” moment when we came to appreciate one another.
My gift to Mami this Christmas doesn’t come in a box. It comes in a flat package.
“What is this, Yesenia?” she holds it up and waves it side to side. “Did you get me a stack of papers to grade for Christmas?” She jokes.
“Just open it, Mami,” I answer anxiously. I am literally on the edge of my chair.
Mami unwraps the holiday paper covering the large envelope. She slowly runs her finger under the edge of the flap. She smiles as she pulls out a brightly colored folder. Inside the folder are two tickets and an itinerary for an extended vacation. Come June 2022, we will be traveling the world together. I need an education, Mami needs a vacation, and we both need time together.
“How? Why? Are you sure you can afford it?” Asked my mother, who is clearly in shock mode.
I explain about the Carson account, which she knows I had been courting relentlessly for over a year. My hard work paid off with an opening order of gob-smacking proportions. The commission check was equally impressive. I knew this was one chunk of change that would not stay in the bank for very long.
We have come full circle. I wasted too many years of my life blaming my mother for circumstances beyond her control. Fortunately, God gave us a wide opening to get to know each other, and we both grabbed it.
“Mami, you deserve it. There is nothing I would rather do than spend the summer with you.”
She replies by reaching across the table to squeeze my hand.
“Thank you, mi corazoncita, my darling daughter, my hero, my life.”
By Susan Diamond
READ MORE by this author
There have been many negative stories about tense familial relationships during the pandemic. I wanted to write a positive one. Mi Corazoncita is about turning misunderstanding into understanding.