A Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

It’s been eighteen years since the Memorial Day weekend when I fractured a bone in my right foot. It’s a funny story that ends with Mami not believing I was hurt as bad as I was. She hard-tissue massaged vaporú onto my injured foot and then helped me squeeze a swollen, purplish limb into my once-white Reebok sneakers so that I wouldn’t miss school.

I limped through the hallways for the rest of the day until Mami finally took me to get an X-ray and the doctor told us I would need a cast and crutches for the next 6-8 weeks. Mami never told me how guilty she felt for not believing me about the pain, but she was quiet on the ride home and she cooked one of my favorite meals when we got to the house. White rice and lemon chicken.

I’ve been writing that story. I’ve been writing a lot of different stories, journaling reflections with more frequency and scribbling poems in the notes section of my phone. There are two pieces in particular though that are kicking my butt as I work through the revisions.

The first is a personal essay incorporating my mom’s Sancocho recipe. This braided lyric essay was selected to be featured in Fried Eggs and Rice: An Anthology of Writers of Color on Food. Angelique Imani Rodriguez is one of the fiercest editors I’ve had the pleasure of working with and while this anthology is still shopping for a publisher, I can promise you that it is going to be MAGIC.

The second essay is still very much what Ann Lamott would label a “shitty first draft.” In fact, to even call it a first draft is generous and shitty even kinder. It is the beginnings of what I hope to submit to the Writing Our Lives/Long Reads partnership call for mother wound essays.

I am being gentle with myself because I understand that this kind of work can be triggering but it is the combination of both of these essays that brought me to my mother’s house this past Friday. We had honest and difficult conversations about my mental health, the history of mental illness in our family and cycles of abuse.

One of the most touching moments was how I was able to name that she was abused by her mother which in turn led to her abusing me. I was careful to explain that I wasn’t angry anymore about it and that I understood that the privilege I experience being able to go to therapy and actively work on healing is a direct result of all the sacrifices she made.

The woman I knew eighteen years ago wouldn’t have believed me about the pain. She would have snapped, either criticizing me for something entirely off topic or hiding in self-contempt by saying things like, “I know I’m a terrible mother.”

But Mami has been growing and healing too. Her face softened as I spoke. She nodded her head gently, as though to say, I know you’re right, and then she said something that caught me completely off guard. She waited for me to finish speaking and waved a meek smile before she responded, “I’m still proud of me. I did a good job. I did the best job I could.”

I wanted to stand up and give her a slow clap round of applause. She was able to hear me, honor what I was telling her and not have it define her or take away from the amazing job she did as a parent.

This was all Friday evening before my body decided to wage war against me. This past weekend I was the sickest I’ve been in a long time. So sick, that I hauled myself to Urgent Care on Memorial Day to make sure it wasn’t anything more serious than a bad cold.

It wasn’t, at least not my doctor standards.

One of my friends told me my body was purging, getting rid of the emotions that no longer serve me in this new stage of my life. I do find it interesting that the worst symptom, the most painful of all the symptoms I experienced, was a piercing, stabbing pain at the base of my throat.

The throat chakra’s purpose is to express and communicate. My naming some of my childhood experiences with my mother as physical and emotional abuse was at the root of a very difficult time for me in the last few months. My being able to communicate that truth to my mother was a serious muscle flex for someone who has struggled to voice her feelings and boundaries for a majority of her life.

Maybe it was all the sick kids I work with always coughing and sneezing all over me. Maybe it was the weather that keeps switching from season to season like it can’t make up its mind. Maybe it was just my time to get sick. But the writer in me cannot help but notice that it might be more than these things because, as is titled the book next to my bed that I’ve continued to avoid, the body keeps the score.

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