There was a time when I loved my mother.
After writing this, Theresa paused and gave a glance out of the window of her bedroom. It was the end of the year and waking up that morning, earlier than usual, she felt that she had to write down the areas of her life that needed improvement. She would then detail the steps required to reach her goals as suggested by the last motivational book she had been reading and that she kept open on her desk.
Of course, the first thing that came to her mind was her relationship with her mother. Theresa had two grown-up daughters that had seen their grandmother only once in their lives. Theresa did not live in the same country as her mother but was that a sufficient excuse? How many times had her husband suggested a trip to Central Africa for Christmas and had back down in front of her lack of enthusiasm?
There was a time, however, when Theresa loved her mother.
She thought she was so free spirited and open-minded.
Was she not the one who made sure Theresa knew all about birth control when she was 11 years old (and you cannot blame her, so many scandals in the family!)
Her mother and her father would have her older sister and her sit in their bedroom to explain to them why they were not getting along anymore: cheating on both parts, following a sense of neglect on her mother’s side.
And her mother would go as far as citing the name of her partner in crime, who was a man they all knew.
Theresa kind of liked her mother’s openness though and somehow still did. Her mother would make no mystery about what was happening in her adult life and her friends’ lives also. Needless to say that nobody was faithful to anybody.
Theresa did not approve of the loose morals that were the order of the day where she grew up in Central Africa. But she found it quite difficult to understand the holier than thou attitude that she encountered a lot in Nigeria where she was living now. Was it that everybody was a saint around there?
Perhaps it was so, and Theresa just had her mind twisted by her permissive upbringing.
She used to love her mother also because, at that time, more than one mother were pushing their daughters in the arms of wealthy people, regardless of their personal feelings, but her mother would only ask once: “are you sure you don’t want to go out with the vice-governor? He has phoned twice already.” And that would be it. She would not pressure her further.
She loved her because she was not into “juju” while some of her friends were immersed in it. Theresa remembered however their first and last attempt together: her mother was worried that her daughter had never been in a long relationship, so she gave her this bracelet that was handed over to her by some “babalawo”, and Theresa was supposed to carry it in her bag at all times. Funny enough, the first day she went to see her boyfriend at the time, she found him pacing up and down, very agitated, and he screamed at her: “what are you doing to me, I know you are doing something to me!” Theresa was so scared, she showed him the bracelet, and that put a definitive end to her first relation with the underworld!
Theresa did not think that her mother had ever uttered a lie in her life. And she got that from her. She hardly lie (except by omission!), and a little more lately because who could survive without lying? But, usually she did not see the point of lying.
Sure, there was a lot to love in her mother. Theresa had never seen such openness in an African woman of her generation. In the seventies, when this French singer, Sheila, divorced, it was rumoured it was because she was in fact a man. Her mother reaction to the news was: “Is that a reason to divorce? The husband didn’t knew it before?” and this was in the seventies!
For the longest time, Theresa thought she had the best mother in the world.
Her mother did not further her education beyond primary school but she was a very intelligent person, very lively and sociable.
Her mother had had eight children but it was as if only the last two ones were her children. She would worry so much over them. The said children being now a grown-up married man in his late thirties and a grown up woman in her late forties with a family of her own!
There was never enough Theresa’s mother could do for them, at a point where the whole financial burden was weighing on the shoulders of her other forgotten children. Mainly two of them, as two were dead, one was taking care of her own family and the older sister, who had seen their family through during the most difficult years, had finally thrown in the towel in the midst of so much ingratitude. And who would blame her?
It was only then, that Theresa understood what her older sister must have felt all those years. What do you feel when you do not know if your family is around you because of your money or because they genuinely care for you?
What do you feel when the money you have been sending home throughout the years that could have built so much is still claimed as not being enough?
It was like throwing water into the Danaid’s jar.
Theresa was now looking out of the window at three cute little girls down the street who were coming out of their house in three matching outfits.
On second thought, what was paining Theresa or her other siblings the most was not so much the financial constraint endured no matter the circumstances they found themselves into but that their mother could not care less.
Not that Theresa’s mother was materialistic. She was not. She would never buy fancy laces, or keep money for herself, not at all. Just that she expected all her children to sacrifice themselves for her and the two anointed ones, but in return, she never thought of stepping out of her comfort zone or of going out of her way herself for her children. It had always been about what her children could do for her never about what she could do for her children.
Now, the only thing that was binding Theresa and her mother was the monthly text message with the money transfer code.
Theresa did not even bother to listen to her mother’s voice anymore as she could not bear to hear that eight hundred dollars a month were not enough to pay the outstanding bills, in central Africa, for a retiree that lives in her own house.
What could you do except fall out of love.
Theresa stopped looking at the window and instead of filling her to do list for the coming year, she just wrote:
There was a time when I loved my mother.
I do not know when I stopped hearing her heart beating for me.
Has her heart ever beaten for me? I wonder.
Today, I remember when I used to love my mother.
I don’t know where she is gone, I don’t know if she was ever there, but I miss her today.