I’m not on speaking terms with my mom. This makes every mother’s day particularly hard for me. Every year, I go to the store and pick out a present for her. It seems like cruel irony that when I was younger, I wished I had more money to get her something that would make her eyes sparkle and forget every hardship just for a moment. Now, I have all the money and the ideas for presents, but my mom’s not there.
I choose to only remember the good parts of our relationship. I remember how she would feed me rice with butter when I was sick and brush my hair to soothe me. I remember how my mom sold some textbooks to cover for my brothers and me accidentally breaking a window in the basement. I remember how she always knew when I would hide classwork with imperfect grades on them.
Older family members would say that I walked the same way as her in heels. That we looked almost the same from behind. That I had her smile. I got my height from her, although I like to say that I’m a wee bit taller. I think I got a lot of my personality from her, too — most importantly, the everlasting optimism and trust in people.
My mom instilled in me a love for food. She always baked the best things — apple pies, pineapple upside down cakes, Bengali sweets, banana breads, you name it. She always let me lick the mixer beaters, and I always would get batter in my hair even though I would promise that I wouldn’t. She always cooked the best things, too — homemade pizza, lasagnas, spaghetti sauce, biryani, samosas, and a myriad of other Bengali food. It is a great shortcoming of mine that I can only bake half as well as her and no where near as well as her in terms of cooking. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to memorize everything she did in the kitchen. I long for all of her American dishes with a Bengali spin. Cooking Bengali food myself now just makes me sad because it tastes like I tried to pass cheez-whiz and spam off as an authentic Philly cheesesteak.
She also instilled a love of colorful fabrics and jewelery in me. My mom mostly only wore intricately ornate saris everywhere. I used to love going in her closet and gazing at the rainbow of colors. My mom used to give me sari scraps, and I would try to safety pin the pieces together to have the finest dressed dolls in town. For a long time, she even wore saris in the hospital. Somewhere in there, she switched for a bit to “professional” clothing, but I hope that reversed. She had maybe one pair of jeans, and she used to wear Bengali clothing to school when she was in high school. She loved hijab that was trimmed in lace. For a bit, I went the polar opposite and wore a lot of black (growing up, the girls weren’t allowed to wear black as some sort of family tradition). Now, I’m only comfortable in bright colors or deep jewel tones and mostly dresses or skirts. I also have a penchant for lace.
My mom went back to college and then went to medical school after a long hiatus to raise children. I always thought it was cool then that she was going to be a doctor, but now I think it’s phenomenal that she was so dedicated. During medical school, she lived four hours away, and during residency, she was never around. I used to fake struggles with creative writing and reading Quran to get her attention. I used to resent her for being away so much, for not being there when I needed her, for wanting her job more than she wanted me in my mind. Now that I’m older, I recognize the crazy work-life balance and how insanely hard it is. I don’t think she ever felt like she was a great mother and a great doctor, and I wish I could tell her now that I understand she was doing the best she could.
Through everything, she always tried to give us treats. No one understands this one now, but it always stands out in my mind the way she would save change for us so that she could sporadically gift us with fifty cents to buy a snack cake at school. When you live in a world where every penny counts, those fifty cents placed in sandwich bags so they wouldn’t be lost — they were lavish gifts of normalcy for a moment in my childhood. When it was our birthday, she cut out photographs and made the best birthday cards, and I always used to save them. When she lived in Nashville and we had to visit her, she always tried to have some treat like Eggo waffles or rice krispy treats. When she started working in the hospital, she always tried to bring us treats like Bosco sticks or ice cream in order to make up for being away so much. Now, I can mindlessly buy any of these foods but I’m unable to relish them the same way as I could before.
I have one thing of my mother’s — a gold and emerald necklace that she got from her mom for her high school graduation. I have dreams where I talk to her about all of my life experience and new awareness of the world. I wake up and feel that deep ache in my chest from missing her. There’s a sadness that stems from knowing that our shared experiences have come to a halt many years ago and it’s near impossible to ever have that again.
So happy mother’s day to everyone who celebrates it. I’ll spend the day remembering everything good about my mother and missing her terribly.