Someone’s suffering is sadder than my own

There is this one person I have come to admire the most. In the beginning, it was quite a challenge to understand her, since we basically spoke different languages. She spoke from the adult world, and I spoke from the short naive life that I lived. However, in the process of getting to know each other and ourselves, I had come to see her as one of my mentors.

When I was born,  she was not ready yet to live for someone, though she had been old enough to marry. Still, she did that one thing which she was good at for her daughter; staying right by her side no matter what.

In the sweltering weather, when she and her husband could not afford an air conditioner yet, she held me tight as I fell asleep in her arms. The air was stuffy and salty, her back melted on the chair, as she tried to position herself to help me catch the best of the little whiffs from the ceiling fan. Mostly alone, in a foreign land with a husband too busy to really help her, she fought against the oppressive climate to provide the best for her baby.

Sweat washed down her face like a shower, but she would not move, day in, day out. She was afraid that she might break her daughter’s peace after my inability to settle every suffocating night. She stayed still, waiting for the twilight.

She took care of me always before taking care of herself.

When the rectangle door of the house burst open, she ran across the living room, extending her arm to caress me when I entered, excited. That was the day when I, as a little elementary girl, returned home with red, wet cheeks, after being hit by a boy twice my size. All I had done was not move out of his way quickly enough on a bus.

She wiped my tears and iced the bruise on my stomach. She listened carefully, afraid to miss a word of what had happened. She comforted me, assuring me that “mom’s going to take care of everything.”

The next day, that young woman faced the school principal, elementary school coordinator, and her daughter’s homeroom teacher. She ferociously vented her anger, asking why a Grade 11 boy would hit a 1st grader’s stomach. She was not good in English, barely knew how grammar worked, and she ran out of words by the end of her sentences. Still, she knew what she was fighting for, and she made it crystal clear to whoever was listening that she was asking for her daughter’s justice.

She protected me before protecting herself.

When, at age 10, I came home screaming at her that she knows nothing about her daughter and what she faces in her school, she was lost, but did what she was an expert at, not leaving me until my anger was alleviated. I would still blame her for bringing me to India, asking her why she threw me into a wilderness to let me get bullied. Her heart tore apart as she watched me sleep in a damp patch of my own tears, come back from school with puffy eyes, and ask her why she gave birth to me.

She herself was broken from the stress of taking care of a child as well as the loneliness of being detached from her local community. But she would still try and heal my heart with care and loving words.

She laid herself bare, until one day, tears blessed her dry skin.

I came back from school with a wide smile. Holding my drawing in one hand, I opened the door with my other hand. I burst open the door, to face an unsettling atmosphere. Mom was not there. My smile washed out from my face, and I dove into the house in search of her.

From kitchen to living room, I looked under and over any possible place she could be. I searched for her in the main bedroom, thinking that she could be taking a nap. And I did find her, not on the bed with the ceiling fan on, but on the cold bathroom floor. Not sleeping and wandering off in her dreams, but crying.

Through the door crack, I saw her choke, as she tried to contain her noise. She sounded like a dying person. I silently went back to the living room, collected my bag, put on my shoes, and stood at the threshold of the house. “Mom, I’m home!” I screamed, and a couple of minutes later, I saw my mother’s face, with a smile wider than my own. She greeted me, and asked me how my day was, hiding her sorrow. But I could see her eyes were still a little red.

I still do not know the reason for her sorrow that day. Nevertheless, I know that my mother loves me so much that she would push past her mounting emotional needs just to try making one of my current tiny worries better. She might get mad or upset at me but never love me less. I admire and thank her for that.

Edited by Rohan Menezes

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