I remember one early summer morning in High School, my mother pulled over next to the Track & Field house to drop me off. I gave my mom a quick peck on the cheek and jumped out of the car. My coach, Mr. Miller was standing there, waiting for all of the stragglers to get in for our 6:30 AM cross country practices.
“Well, you’ll never be able to deny you’re related,” he said. “You look exactly like her!”
Oh, NO. No, no, no, no, no.
I remember being disturbed by Coach Miller’s observation as we did our run that morning, only half interested in whatever conversation the team was making. Did I really look like my mother? If I did, what parts of me did? Because there were some parts I’d be okay with and others I wouldn’t be so happy about.
It wasn’t the first time someone told me I looked like my mother. And it wasn’t the first time that it bothered me.
Looking back now, I realize that you would have to be blind to not see the resemblance between my mother and myself. But what I realize now is that it wasn’t so much that people were saying I looked like her.
It was that they were saying I was like my mother at all.
When I was younger, I didn’t always appreciate my mother. In fact, there were times where I held very little respect for her. I don’t say that proudly. My mother could be a very angry person when I was growing up and instead of feeling respect, I remember feeling fear. Instead of feeling like I was unconditionally loved, I remember something that felt closer to emotional blackmail.
At the same time, I felt those things for my mother, there was this flip side to her – this side that I did love dearly and that I did cherish. A side that was full of life and passion and the heartiest laughter. But that laughter could turn on a dime and laughter could become tears. Sometimes my own. My mother wasn’t like a box of chocolates, she was more like a box of firecrackers. I never knew what kind I would get.
I look at my mother’s life and recognize that she did not live an easy one. Perhaps it’s why her hair turned grey earlier in life than my own did. Perhaps it’s why the delicate lines around her eyes showed up earlier than they should have. The emotional trials she went through definitely had a physical impact which aged her prematurely. The very hard challenges she faced are part of the very reason she was the way she was.
I didn’t really understand that as a child. Sometimes I still don’t understand it all as an adult. When I wasn’t living in fear of her temper, I just remember craving some security in knowing if the day would be a happy one or a devastating one.
My mother has changed a lot over the years. She has become more like that box of chocolates, but it’s a bit more predictable and it’s like they’re all the same kind. I mostly know what I’m going to get. She and I are much closer than we were when I was young and I can almost forget a lot of my childhood, or at least process it better, knowing what I know about her now. We have spoken about the past and I am willing to allow it to stay in the past and love my mother for the person that she has become.
Does it mean I have forgotten everything?
Does it mean I have forgiven?
When I look in the mirror and see my own reflection, it’s impossible to deny that I am my mother’s daughter. From the thick curly hair that we have both struggled to tame our whole lives to the large brown eyes, to the small, almost non-existent chin. I look back at old pictures of her and am startled at the resemblance, almost the same way I am when I look at my own daughter’s pictures and see my own face.
I no longer flinch when someone tells me how much I look like my mother. I embrace it, just as I embrace her beauty and just as I embrace the imperfections which used to make me want to turn my back on the comparison. I love my mother now in a way that I didn’t know how to before.
I look at my own imperfections as a mother and wonder what Shaila will say when people inevitably tell her she looks like me. I know her response will be a reflection of her relationship with me at that time in many ways. I hope that she is proud.
Just the way I am now when anyone compares me to my own mother.