By the time Yudit and I came together in cyberspace, I was in the throes of serious mother issues. Though the congenial psychiatrist I had seen weekly had suggested that, as a last resort, it might be the best option, I was still struggling not to slam the door on my mother who acted as if each and every option I envisaged or pursued was contemptible and a direct rejection of her.
Once enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin after my graduation from the American high school in Guatemala City, I began life away from home and family as my mother, herself, had done when she married at the age of 19.
My mother, my stepfather and I would connect episodically over the phone or occasionally face-to-face, during summer breaks. At such times, I would have welcomed a little dose of motherly love but often found her as aloof then, as when was a child
Whether my desire for motherly attention was because of a hand swollen by a bee sting, a throbbing toothache, a heartbreak – or worse, much worse, as came to pass over the years – her response began and ended quickly with the advice that I should see a doctor and take medicine, as prescribed. Or, if a heartbreak was the cause, I should pick myself up and move on.
When it came to anxiety regarding deadlines, the advice was to study harder. When I broached an emotional upset, I was told to think ‘like an adult’, not a child or to change jobs or to change my sexuality, depending what had triggered the upset. And I was reminded that I should also definitely consult a psychiatrist if I felt so troubled, whatever the cause.
Always would come the admonishment to be tough, to never feel sorry for myself and to ‘be a little soldier’. Then, the agenda would return to whatever was most important for my mother at that moment. Failing to rally with enough enthusiasm became a blatant act of lese-majesty which was duly noted and remembered.
Why did our mother-daughter lives pan out that way? I used to ask myself.
My mother was the youngest of four children. Till her wedding day at 19, she had lived at home with a gentle and meek father whose favourite she was and, according to my aunts, uncle and cousins, a strict but caring mother. So, it is difficult to imagine my own mother raised in a stoic acceptance of all aches and emotions.
“When things don’t make sense and come out-of-the-blue, heed them, CC,” Yudit often reminded me. “Nothing is accidental.”
My feelings of rejection and anxiety crystalised throughout my childhood. Perhaps it was common enough, particularly in the ‘50’s, for a mother, a young divorcee, to think of her child not unlike a much-loved puppy who could be left here and there for varying periods of time, safe but with unfamiliar carers and relatives who only became familiar over time, while she went about her busy-ness.
Once re-married, the dutiful wife of an engineer on-the-go, my mother took me with them from country to country. Sometimes we stayed for a few months, sometimes a year or two. I attended eleven different schools between the ages of 7 and 17. Sometimes that school was in Africa. Sometimes it was in America. Sometimes it was in Tunisia. Sometimes it was in Central America. Sometimes, too, it was in France. Sometimes the syllabus was delivered in French, sometimes in English and sometimes in Spanish, depending on where ‘home’ was at any given time.
I was forever the new kid who sat in a corner at the back of the classroom, the shy one who often spent her lunch breaks out of sight, hiding behind a book or on the outer fringes of a friendship group.
By the time I was 19 and home during a university break, my mother suspected that, back in Austin, Texas, I was involved in a same-sex love affair with a woman of my own age. She was right, and I never looked back.
I am now in my mid-sixties. My partner, Myahr, and I have been happily living together for the past 21 years in Australia.