I should start by wishing you a happy Mother’s Day, but I suppose that’s unnecessary as you won’t be receiving this anyway. And anyway, although those are the words you expect, those are not the words you want to hear.
It took me a long time to figure out what you wanted me to say. I used to think it was ‘Sorry,’ ever since you told me that when you were pregnant with me, you hadn’t wanted a girl. That your mother had told you girl children were more trouble than they were worth by virtue of being female (this taught me so much about the dysfunction of my extended family, by the way). Not that I’ve turned out as traditionally feminine as either you or my father expected. But it’s not that. It’s not as simple as you having misgivings at the birth of your first daughter, because after the next three followed I think we can both agree there’s nothing wrong with girls. (Except the hour it takes your fifteen year old one to leave the bathroom.)
The second thing I thought you wanted me to say, was about my sexuality. Yes, I’m gay. And for when I eventually tell you, on one eventual date, I will be sorry for hurting you. Part of me is sorry now. It kills me not to say, even when you occasionally raise your eyebrows at my choice of books, when you tease me about marriage or when you flat-out ask. It really does. But that’s not what you want me to say, perhaps because you know by the so-called mother’s intuition that it’s not the time yet.
But I know what you want me to say. And I don’t hate you.
Such an arbitrary, odd thing to say. Especially on Mother’s Day.
But that’s what you’re looking for. Something I’ve realised, talking to my father, is that all parents have this natural fear of their children growing to loathe them. It’s one of the most painful types of rejection possible. And I know you worry. Because I’m not six anymore, I’m sixteen and we don’t talk like we used to. Sometimes we don’t talk at all. Our conversations sometimes become quickly argumentative, because we’re just such different people. We have different values, different friends. Different ideas. Different directions. There are things we don’t like about each other; familiarity truly does breed contempt. But. I don’t hate you. I never did. Sure, it’s cool to be distant and standoffish with your parents nowadays, sure I should get in touch with my Dad more. But I don’t hate you, and I never did. And it isn’t just because you’re my mother and I’m your first daughter.
You gave me my first book.
You encouraged me to read and expand my mind.
You fed my appetite as a reader, and when you saw the notebooks I’d filled in my clumsy attempts at writing you brought me my first laptop so I could grow into a writer.
You opened my mind. If it wasn’t for you, I truly would not be the individual I am today.
My favourite memory: I wasn’t in school for whatever reason; you weren’t at work. Down to the station, the rushing of air as the train comes in, the way everyone quietly moves with the train when we’re on. You hold my hand all the way. We go nowhere in particular. I don’t remember if we said anything. Probably. Probably not. It doesn’t matter. I was five, and it was one of the happiest moments in my life.
Happy Mother’s Day. Happy every ordinary day. And maybe, on one of these ordinary days, I’ll send you this letter. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t even matter, and nothing needs to be said, because of course you already know.