You Only Have One Mother

“Madre no hay sino una”
Yashica-D TTL, 120 Kodak Tri-X 400
Chamblee, Georgia – May, 2014

For Us, It’s Been A Slow, Kind Shift

This is a photograph I took of my sweet, aging mother on mother’s day. She lost her mom at the age of eight and often talks about this. I know how much this impacted her. She also often repeats the Spanish saying, “Madre no hay sino una”, which in English translates poorly and with much less drama and significance as, “You only have one mother”. Perhaps in Spanish-speaking countries, this saying was used as a passive aggressive innuendo towards the “wandering eye” of Latino men (one mother but many fathers?).  At any rate, I don’t think my mom intended it this way when she’d repeat this saying.

This photograph I took of my mom illustrates a shift. I’m referring to the shift that happens when mothers age and daughters take over. For us, it’s been a slow, kind shift. For years now, I am becoming someone she looks to for nearly everything, especially making decisions regarding her health and welfare. I have become, in a way, her mother. She proudly proclaims this to her friends and sometimes total strangers, almost delighting in my new role. There is surrender there on her part and on mine.

Of course there are also losses. There is loss for me in that parts of my mother’s role have slowly faded away. All my life, my mom was the feisty, opinionated and quite stubborn Latina mom. I looked to her for discipline at times (unknowingly) and other times, emotional support.

Yet, it no longer feels justified to share burdens with my mom. It also tends to pain me to watch how many little things that feisty and fiercely independent woman used to do that she can no longer do. There’s a heart-wrench of sorts when your aging mom takes a hold of your arm for the first time on a trip to the doctor because she doesn’t trust her gait or her balance. I thought she’d bristle at these changes. Instead, she continues to surprise me with constant acceptance.

There are plenty of losses for my mom too on the physical side, obviously, but also emotionally. It must be difficult to no longer be able to thread a needle, to continuously forget common words, to miss your husband, and to be told that your can no longer drive. My mom has gracefully handled these losses by turning them into new traits. She lost a little of her feistiness but in exchange, she shows a much gentler and yielding side.

It only dawned on me this week just how much this role shift between us has impacted me creatively. I’ve become stronger in my own sense of self-expression. I’ve become  gentler toward myself, as she has inspired that in me. I have grown in my confidence. I’ve learned to slow it WAY down and at the same time, take life a lot less seriously.

In other words, because of the change in my role as a daughter and my mom’s role as a mother, I’ve somehow without noticing it, widened my heart and grown from my soul. I’ve become a better person and freer in my art and self-expression. My mom has become freer as well, from the level of acceptance and surrender. And between the two of us, we have evolved delicately and beautifully together as women.

I know I’m extremely lucky.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Roxana Urrutia says:

    Love this article!


    1. Thank you Roxana. I actually thought of your mom as I was writing it and how much her friendship meant to my mom.


      1. Roxana Urrutia says:

        It was reciprocal, your mom meant a lot to mine as well. I remember them spending hours talking at your mom’s hairdressing salon 🙂


  2. Randa TM. says:

    Most people go through this but you write it so beautifully Juliette. It went straight to my heart. Doesn’t hardship/challenge make us grow stronger? Whether it’s becoming a mom, losing a parent or becoming responsible of your aging parents. You are so real and so in touch with all of it. Loved it!
    Such a beautiful picture too!!!!


    1. Randa, I am so glad you read it and found some love in there! Yes, challenge does make us grow stronger ESPECIALLY being a parent. I see you stronger since I’ve known you! Thanks for reading!


  3. Jay says:

    Hi cousin… I second what Randa said. Touching indeed. Your mom is an angel and we all love her dearly…


    1. Thank you cousin…


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