MOTHER'S Day is still several months away, but today I suddenly feel sentimental, thinking about my childhood and my mother. I don't think I have thanked my mother enough or told her I love her often enough.
I'm 28 year old but not too old to be my mother's little princess. I'm a trial lawyer but not knowledgeable enough about my own life to make decisions on my own.
Our relationship has never been the typical mother-daughter relationship. Communication between us from the day I started to think for myself has always been "choppy" or the "cannot be reached" sort of thing. There have been no easy and spontaneous demonstrations of love like hugs and kisses, or praises for little achievements in school. And I was hungry for them. I cannot remember trying to show to my mother my own feelings for her with hugs and kisses or by saying "I love you" for whatever she did for me. I couldn't; I froze at the very thought of doing so. "Baka mapahiya ako." [I was afraid of being rejected.] Besides, there was my baby brother who was and will always be the apple of her eye.
Most of the memories I have as a child revolve around my grandmother who took care of me during most of my formative years. Because my mother was busy with her work, she was a vague and ambiguous figure to me, although I knew I came out of her womb.
No love was lost (or won) between my mother and me. I have always been the rebellious, free spirited, independent type. I probably had to dig deep into my innermost strengths to endure a childhood without feeling loved by her. I became willful, competitive and ambitious. I thought that since my "Inang" (grandmother) loved me so much, nothing else mattered.
To project that I was unaffected by this distance between my mother and me, I focused on doing well in my studies while secretly wanting to know and hear how proud she was of me. I often found myself imagining loving scenes between my mother and me, such as a sentimental reunion when I visited her or a simple "Kumusta ka?" ["How are you?"] when I called home.
At 28, I am a very tired human being, tired of putting up walls around me to protect my very emotional heart and constantly reinforcing them so that no cracks would show and so that my mother would never notice them even if they were right in front of her.
Fighting with my mother, whether face to face or on the phone, has become routine. The reasons for our squabbles range from simple to complex things involving my life. Ironically, I feel closer to her whenever we fight because that's the only time she really expresses her feelings, no matter how negative, and then I get to glimpse her heart and soul.
What do we fight about? Mostly about my "lack of time" for her, like not being home during my free time or spending it with someone else. Lately, we have been fighting more about the person who found me and who has recently become the person I think I will marry.
During one of our ugliest fights, my mother demanded in her hair-raising voice that I choose between her and this person whom she said she would never accept (for whatever reason, she only knows). Many hurtful words were exchanged between us that night. To me, it seemed like a tsunami that had been held back for more than 20 years had broken the walls I had carefully built. And yet I let myself lose that round, realizing that I owed her my life and what I was.
I thought I couldn't have hurt her more seriously and so I moved out of my mother's house despite the strong objections of other members of our extended family. By that act, I was told, I was choosing a "stranger" over my own mother. What kind of person was I? How could I love somebody more than my own mother, my flesh and blood?
But I didn't choose anyone over her. We just both needed space.
Old wounds heal, but only after a very long time. There are wounds that have scarred me and left me unable to feel. But I feel no resentment toward my mother because even if I can never be the person she wants me to be, I know we are so much alike. She is proud as I am proud. She is strong as I am strong. She is weak as I am weak. Probably we are too much alike and we don't even realize that the likeness can no longer be disguised by the fights we have.
I am what I am today not because of the strength I imagined I had deep inside me, but because God has given me the same character traits my mother has. I am her daughter, albeit an improved version of her.
I know and recognize the sacrifices and hardships that she went through to put me through school. I know how hard it was for her to put up with me and my insensitive nature. I cannot tell her enough how grateful I am, even if she thinks everything I do confirms her belief that I am an ungrateful child. I cannot ask for her forgiveness enough, but I am truly sorry for whatever hurt, pain and suffering I have caused her. I cannot tell her I love her enough, because our differences always seem bigger than both of us. But I am most grateful and, in all humility, I ask for her forgiveness and I declare that I love her so much.
Her worst fear is that I might live an unhappy life, as she perceives her own to be an unhappy one. I pray constantly that she will find happiness and peace of mind, while she prays constantly that I will find the right partner. But I will find the right partner and live a happy life, because she has taught me many things that I didn't recognize to be useful then but do now. I will, because God has kept her and me together for more than 20 years.
Despite our differences, I am my mother's daughter. And every day is Mother's Day because not a day passes when I don't think of her.
Tina Geronimo Nievera, 28, is a trial lawyer.
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