Come in, let me tell you a story . . .
To my mother on her 77th birthday
by Y.L. Reyes on August 31st, 2015

​​“It’ll take years, as it’s taken us, to understand the truth. Her mother was an antihero: tragic, valiant, and impossibly important.”[1] 
Hola Mami,

Today is your 77th birthday and I have spent the past three months trying, unsuccessfully, to write a story for you. I kept getting lost in the mechanics of it, attempting to bring the essence of you into my narrative. How could I have been so foolish to think it was possible? In the 36 years you were around me, I barely knew who you were in reality. You existed, always, giving me your particular kind of love, that could never be denied. But, I don’t think anybody, even yourself, ever knew who or why you were on this earth.

There were a few instances during the last years when I saw a glimpse of the woman who was my mother. I saw anger when you knew what was happening to you and couldn’t do anything about it. “You’re here Yayi, and I have to go and get sick, but I will get better soon, don’t worry.” In your voice, I could hear giveaways to your kind lie. I remember tears in your eyes when, while cleaning your immense collection of documents and books, I found a letter you wrote as a young girl inside your beloved convent. A girl full of hope and innocence, having fun with her girlfriends. I showed you the letter, and within the haze and confusion of that fucking disease, you saw who you were for a split second. That girl who you lost years ago and it broke your heart. I saw you then, I saw your childhood dreams and hopes lost under the weight of your social and cultural responsibilities. A Dominican woman “must study, take care of her mother, marry and have children.” No room for anything else, it was not allowed in your life.

I read that small journal entry with excitement because I never got to know that girl in my life. I only knew the severe woman who would do anything for her family. Kind, loving but so strict, unbendable.

As a toddler, you were my cuddle source mixed with bouts of anger after going through an early menopause; not the best female phase to deal with the eternal cries of a child. I was a sad, restless girl and you would lose your patience, regretting it afterward. I know you didn’t wanted it that way, but who can control the passing of time? There was no room for apologies or talks of emotions. I was a child, I had to obey. I would get kisses and hugs later; you would wipe my tears, leave the red imprint of your lips on my cheek and life would go back to normal.

My mortal enemy during my teen years: constant fights! Lengua Viperina you would call me, fed up with my need to have the last word; to reply to everything without thinking. You would punish me, I would cry, we would get over it, and the cycle of my teenage rebellion will start again. I also learned to always thank the driver of your bus or taxi with you; to help others in any way possible. A particular story, mom: I remember a man from Iran who was duped by a fake university in our fabulous country. He was stuck in Santo Domingo and couldn’t go back to his home country without the expected Medicine degree; the first time I learn of the Ayatollah and government oppression. I remember you going out of your way to help him, to give him food and money. In those years, I was too preoccupied with one new book, a new cartoon or myself to notice much, but I learned from the bits I could gather, the kindness that was in your heart.

My benefactor in my 20’s when you gave me the wings I needed to fly and gave a polite “fuck off” to any family member who disagreed with your decision. Ella es mi hija y yo la mando para donde yo quiera! I would never forget those words; the excitement in your eyes. You gave me the chance you never got in your youth; a chance to decide for myself the life I wanted to live. Even if it meant losing me to the old continent. After that, I saw you once a year. Awkward hugs and kisses and in your eyes the constant question, “when are you coming back, yayi?” “soon, mom, soon.”

Now in my 30’s you are simply my mom, always my mom. She who got so small with the years, who only recognized me for 2 minutes the last time I saw her alive. Mi muchachita you called me then before going back into the darkness. The woman with the beautiful nails even while lying in her coffin. Always my mother.

I never really knew who you were, I don’t think any of us ever did. But I remember who you were around me, and I guess after all, only our beautiful memories is all that remains. It is sad to understand, only after your death, the strength and the immense love you had for us. I can’t thank you in person anymore, and I will carry that sorrow forever, but I can’t write this stupid letter and hope there’s Wi-Fi in your heaven. One thing I know I will do and I know it is what you always wanted for me: I will live, I’ll be happy and I will carry you with me always.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


[1] In Praise of Betty Draper, Difficult Woman. Buzzfeed article, May 2011.

Posted in In my opinion    Tagged with mother, happy birthday, Love


Millie - October 20th, 2015 at 3:55 PM
My dearest Yayi. I am sure your mom has read this letter. I can feel it. Our parents have feelings, but they never have learned to express it. I am so glad to know that you have found a medium to share your thoughts and share heart with the world. I miss you my friend. Tu amiga del Portal 62.
elf - October 29th, 2015 at 5:54 AM
Beautiful, Touching. I have tried to write about my mom and it just isn't easy.
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