Letter to a Childless Mother
- 10 Posts
- Age 23
I’m seventeen now, if you recall. When flower shops filled with young girls purchasing carnations for their mothers in May, could you identify my tanned face, slant eyes, and dark hair in the crowd - or did you see only a mass of identical twins? Did you mark on the calendar the senior prom you would never attend? As the neighborhood children grew restless and learned their letters, I wonder if you remembered I wanted to enter primary school. I wanted to wrap my tiny, crooked fingers around your sturdy palm. I wanted you to escort me to class and promise to return at the end of the day, but most of all, I wanted to spend those first six years in your arms.
“She loved you so much that she wanted the best future possible for you,” Mother II soothes. “She knew she could not provide you with the care you needed.”
My fingers forget the notes of Joplin.
My skate lifts off the ice into a waltz jump. I rotate, and the world spins, but does not land upright.
My brow sweats; my hand quivers. My throat burning, I audition, envisioning an angelic costume composed of a white dress and sparkly wings. “I am Hope.”
Yet I play the trumpet in the Christmas pageant.
I realize Mother II does not know you. I glance in the mirror. At my protruding front tooth. At my B in oral French. I stare at my tooth and my report card, waiting for a blend of the same flawed white. The white is in perfect contrast to the scarlet of the correcting pen and the ruby of torn lips. I breathe in and out. I try desperately to feel the love.
Your blonde hair trails down to the bottom of a billowing skirt. You dwell under high vaulted ceilings and conical spires. Outside the castle lie lush grounds overflowing with fragrant tulips. I could grow up amid unicorns, riding through the forests and scaling the highest mountain, protected by guards. I could dance in the ballroom with eligible bachelors. I could study law, philosophy, and history in the library to prepare to assume the throne.
As you rock me to sleep in my cradle, a servant girl plays the harp. You weep because you want to transfer the scepter to my hand and lay the crown on my head. You want to find me a wise and noble prince. You want to dote on the future heirs to the throne, your grandchildren. You want to watch them chase butterflies in the palace courtyard and paint murals of flowers on a wall in the village. You want me to rule, love, and laugh. You never want my bright eyes to lose their luster or my heart to forfeit its innocence.
You are a mother, but black is the colour of your hair. Not a single strand is yellow.
“Today, we are studying genetic inheritance and the Punnett square!” my science teacher announces. “The assignment is to draw a self-portrait and identify traits that you might have inherited from your parents. Please explain why for full marks.”
As I watch my peers trace their blue eyes to their mother, their dimples to their father, and their attached earlobes to a grandparent, my mind wanders. One girl’s family is athletic. Her parents, brother, and sisters all play competitive soccer and run marathons. I reflect on the boy who plays the violin, whose mother teaches voice lessons, and whose father is an acclaimed musician. Sister I figure skates. Sister II loves the piano. Father II pursues computer network administration. Mother II took secretarial courses.
50% of final grade: Who are you? Who was I?
Other 50%: Who am I? Who will I be?
I do not belong here. China courses through our blood. Every night in my dreams, I run. I do not know where I come from. I do not know where I go. I only know that I link you to Mother II, that I sail between Father I and Father II, and that I fly from Canada to China and back again, often in the same night. I wish you could read me what you wrote in your diary between the night of my birth and the night of my abandonment, events merely a week apart, so I could understand why I had to live this life, why I did not deserve to be a princess or your daughter.
How is it that I love your sacrifice and hate your crime? If I hear your voice without ever learning your language and long for your affection without ever knowing your character, am I delusional, ungrateful, desperate or human?
One day, I will stop running, maybe in North America or Asia, maybe in Europe or Africa. I will stop trying to classify you as a mathematician or an artist. A philanthropist or a prostitute. A teacher or a student. A murderer or a romanticist. I will celebrate because my ignorance of the past has enabled me to wish upon stars. I can wish to be a writer, an entrepreneur, a chief executive officer, a mother, and a humanitarian. I can strive to be everything or nothing. I design my picture on a clean canvas. No one has told me where, what or how to paint.
I am a mixture of colours thrown haphazardly, yet intentionally, onto paper.
I am beautiful. I am complex. I am abstract.
Finally, I am free.