The Mother Issue
The Mother Issue is a fore work collection, memories of my mother from when I was a kid.
Ice Dancing, That’d be my Sport
(for my big brother)
Journey, or some shit was on the menu, the late night menu…
Mom’s one of a kind menu.
Her touch and knit brow ensured it would leave a lasting memory and linger like a fever.
She was eager to teach, and to preach, though she wasn’t ordained…
A blur it would leave us, more than it would feed us.
Journey or some shit on cassette tape. Add her warped mind on a midnight train going on a…
Everything prepped and ready for the molcajete.
Do you know what that is?
A porous black stone-tool for crushing.
A Mexican cooking staple, now front and center, sittin’ on the kitchen table.
And in my mother’s clutch, the stone mortar destined for its mate, a pestle and that cassette tape.
She was not having that kind of music in her house.
What would people think?
A wife of a pastor.
A man of God.
No son of a man of God, she said, should listen to Journey, or Debbie Gibson or was it Madonna or Hall and Oates?
Watch out boy she’s about to break your hopes.
I revealed the secret ingredient that made her salsa the hottest and most unique.
So to speak.
And in that black stone bowl,
and with that black stone in her hand,
she put her elbow into it.
Her special touch, fueled her take of it,
and her hate for it,
the blasphemous words of Journey, she head straight for it.
And ground it to shards and plastic bits.
The hand-written label, smudged and torn, crushed, splintered, sharp shards and fissures.
Mini plastic daggers to the heart.
Hot and spicy tears emerged from my brother, enough to break his young heart wanting on that midnight train going, who the hell cares.
No chance for revival.
The cassette now, beyond recognition.
Yards of black tape, billow and float and spill from the porous black stone.
Once upon a time, there was a box of donuts.
Mommy brought them home from work.
Left over from cuts and guts.
She was a nurse.
Sister got one.
Brother got one too.
Mine was lemon.
White powder on top.
Smooth puffy dome.
Unique morning at home.
Perked with donuts!
It sat on my white paper napkin for me to enjoy and I wondered what other kid could say they got donuts before school.
I was cool!
Daddy made our lunches.
Mommy took off her stethoscope, washed her hands with that weird green soap.
Here’s what happened next,
I don’t clearly remember what tanked,
but in that next instance, was utter chaos, complete lift off, straight from the counter top.
Mommy yelled and she cried and she balled her fists.
My eyes wide at this twist to our morning,
I thought and watched her smash and batter that pink box with treasures inside.
What else was there to say?
“I’m glad I got mine?”
Is what I vocalized.
I met the glazed gazes of my brother and sister. Their expressions mirrored my own, at what we had witnessed.
We covered our precious donuts with our hands and watched dad escort mom away.
I wonder to this day, what my brother and sister remember, and how their ever after that day was painted.
Ice Dancing, That’d be my Sport
(For my big sister)
Ballerina not for me.
Mom said no. Jesus said so.
“What about ice skating?”
“That’s like dancing.”
“So that’s a no?”
This won’t fly, so I gave up religion at the age of five.
I knew in that moment, if I couldn’t dance, jump, or skate, that life was too short to worry about Jesus and goin’ to church and hatin’ on skatin’ and dancin’ and prancin’ and twirkin’ and tutus, pink shoes, ornate laces and painted faces.
Ballerina not for me?
I think yes-and-no to those foolish and prudish you-wish-rules-ick!
Shante I’ll say, in my own way.
To mommy dearest, the clearest.
Then to Jesus, believe us.
And when I’m on that stage, or dance floor, bar table, greased brass pole, while you lookin’ through the key hole, shakin’ your head or tiskin’ your tongue,
I’ll be bouncin’ my foot to a jingle on TV.
Tingling watching Dirty Dancing and romancing about the Getting Down and Dirty and the Eight Count, or Two Step, Electric Snide, I mean Slide.
Yes for me.
All day long.
Plus with skates on. And also with pom-poms, in a leotard with glitter lips and hips on a fix like Tonya Harding, disregarding and bombarding hell bent and waters parting.
I’ll win the gold are you sold?
Now here’s the rest, don’t fret, little girls in the back seats of their mom’s cars watching future stars and asking if they can dance too and being told no.
Dominate someday in your own way.
Maybe it’s on imaginary skates, or lifting weights, being a menace at tennis, or drawing or acting, misfits, use your wits!
Ballerina? Yes for me.
All day long.
Plus with skates on.
She wasn’t a long gone sort of mom.
Not even close to that sort of song and dance,
more like a ping-pong and prance, a circumstance,
and array of emotions and anecdote-shuns of how we could be more like other people’s kids.
Sister’s B + wasn’t good enough.
Her favorite pastime, spilling failures with her marriage to my dad on long car rides. Sister and I held captive inside.
From the back seat, we got earfuls and tearfuls, when I was five and sister was seven.
What possible insight could she glean from a lived life of five and seven Christmases and springs?
She wanted our ears full, with her hurts and woes of a life she struggled through
medicated and terribly unhappy.
Four kids in, two of which, adopted and the other two she bore,
that she outwardly treated with more, which wasn’t much, but all she had.
What about dad?
A million miles earned with United.
Latch key kids delighted.
Minimal supervision ignited.
But mom was there sometimes and when she was there,
through those careful years,
those elementary school years and middle school fears and awkward faces, give me my space,
and as best she could, us kids withstood, all that came with her,
wading through guilt that she oozed that surrounded and encased us,
jolted awake us, with glazed slaps on the face,
after meetings with teachers that she sided with, when it was us against them.
And on the way to the car after that, or those rare times she picked us up,
when she caught glimpses of another person’s glorious kid,
gentle reminders and digs and whispered hints for how
we could be more like other people’s kids.
I’ve got mother issues. I’ve got back issues, future issues, special collector issues, one of a kind, limited edition, rare issues…(announcer’s voice fades here.)
Okay here goes.
My mother’s mental illness wasn’t a secret at home. She was very communicative about her day-to-day battle. She talked about it even before we, my brothers and sister and I, could comprehend what it meant. Depression runs on her side of the family, I guess that means it runs in mine too. If it runs on my father’s side, I do not know. Whether my siblings battle with it, I do not know. Aside from her, no one else talks about it, and we likely won’t, until we have to and we haven’t had to yet.
This author’s note, in which I am providing contextual information for The Mother Issue, is the most I’ve ever spoken on the subject.
It’s taken me months to formulate.
Early memories of my mother have stuck with me. Memories that have shaped how I view people with mental illness. My mother’s struggle with depression included other overarching emotions, like anger. For a long time I thought mental illness and anger were one in the same. I know now, that’s not true. Everyone’s struggle is different, it looks different, because people are different.
It’s obvious to me now.
Through poetry and relationships with others that talk about how they live and cope, I’ve been able to detangle the differences.
Celeste Castro lives in Chicago with her wife. She writes lesbian romance and poetry. She uses her life experiences to drive her writing. On Twitter at @writerceleste or email at firstname.lastname@example.org