...and then

Thursday, 7 July 2011

My mother loves jasmine flowers

This is a work of fiction


My mother isn't too happy with me these days. Nothing I do could make her feel better about her being a mother. In effect, she isn't happy with herself. I mean, what good mother would end up with a daughter who was all that I was, right? Where had her parenting gone wrong? Why wasn't her daughter the epitome of all that potential-fulfilling daughters are? My mother isn't too happy with herself these days

I am not sure where it began. Maybe it began the day she chose not to open her door to me when I'd try and knock it down thinking I'd go crazy staying awake in the warm, ochre afternoons -- not being used to naps at noon as a nine-year-old in a new city. It led me to find my own handfuls of amusement. Or perhaps it began the day I discovered she had read my diaries. It was then I knew that I could tell her anything and she'd react unexpectedly -- either with a laugh without me noticing or with a sigh, a scolding and silence, sometime later.

I remember her long beautiful hair from photographs. I don't ever remember it in real life, even though I knew I was old enough to have registered a memory. There are photographs of her hypnotic black hair, sometimes in soft, soft waves flowing down her back in Friday picture of domesticity. There are other tiny prints of her rope-like braid snaking down her elegant bosom as she smiled shyly at the camera. My mother doesn't like the way her upper teeth are aligned and so all the life of her real smiles are hidden behind the prettiness of tiny ones in pictures.

Why doesn't she leave my dad, I used to ask her when I was a teenage feminist and noticed how he ordered her about. It was that heady age when I felt everyone was out to get my mother and that I had to protect her. Even from my own gentle father who, albeit a bit insensitive, would drift away in thin air without my mother. I failed to see how quietly and patiently she had come to own him even though he made most of the decision at home. Now I see it's because she let him.

The fighting, these days, it seems is as endless as this brilliant summer sun. The first thing I hear from my mother is a bit of her angry soul overpowering her yellow brightness and taking the sunlight away from me. The rest of the day passes in brooding how to deal with her. To me she seems to be saying and behaving in complete opposites as if she were a chess game all on her own: diligent sprinkle of black and white, fighting each other, winning some, losing the others, only to start all over again. There's never an end to chess games, is there?

Today, as I sit wondering what it is that I must do without compromising my own reason or my own self and yet giving in to her just so she doesn't make us both sad, I decide to take a walk in the woods to see if the trees will give me a lesson. All I hear is silence. If I listen, I know there's a song, that may soothe my soul or give me lyrics that will make sense. But I can't hear, you see. Apart from going a little deaf, there's a bit of resistance that comes from collecting too many things that make me happy, momentarily. Sometimes, they are dried leaves, other times they are little insects of colour that could have only come from some secret place deep within a green leaf, and yet other times they are people that disappear. All beautiful, all transient. When they are gone, there's place again on the shelf, the emptiness calling out to me to be filled. So I develop this resistance -- to the good and the bad. And so I don't hear the song, nor the words: all I see is an unrelenting sun. And no lessons.

I walk back, and just as I enter the box that keeps me going, I spot a jasmine bush. My mother has the most sensuous love of jasmine. It will always be her flower. The flower will always be her. I pick some of the flowers, I want to smell them but I fear I'll ruin their creamy purity if I do. I pick some flowers -- some open and voluptuous, some reticent and miserly, others tight and unready to face the head of hair that the world is, much like me. I gather them in my palm and the perfume wafts up to my face. I close my eyes, think of another love, a song, a smile and a chat window. I close my palms and vow to make it better for my mother.


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