My eternal Valentine – in memory of my mom

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My dear mom´s birthday was on February 14th. She died 8 years ago (only 11 days after her 59th birthday).

I always felt lucky for having Sônia as my mother. When I was little, I once wrote her a card that said ¨You are my favorite mom¨. She and my sister always made fun of that card, but I still think it makes perfect sense. I wouldn´t have traded her for any other mom.

As a quick glance about her, I can say that she was a funny person, an optimistic, a problem solver, an animal and plants lover (not a beach lover like me, she preferred the country) and an endless curious. She read more books than I can imagine and every time she wanted to know about something, she would get a book on the subject. That´s where I got this certainty that we can learn anything on our own. She was an unstoppable learner.

When I was around 7-8, every night I would lay with her on her bed reading books and each night we took turns on rubbing each other backs.

I remember that back then I felt very proud that my mom would read every night instead of watch soap operas like most moms. In her late days she started to watch soap operas as well. And her favorite channel on TV was the Animal Planet. Boy, she could laugh at that silly show with the funny animals (and at Mr Bean too).

Every time she would leave the house, I´d ask to go along, whether it was a go to the supermarket, run whatever errands, or visit a friend. She never rejected my company, she never complained for taking me with her (at least, not that I can remember).

This is such a sweet memory, something that makes me do the same with my daughter: patiently take her with me anywhere I go for as long as she wants to join me.

Soon enough (I don´t know exactly when) I was off with my friends all the time. But when I was on my twenties, once again we were together a lot. She built a country house and I´d go to spend every weekend there with her, usually just the two of us. I loved the peace and silence of that place and being with her.

I know teens get grumpy with their parents, but I never stopped admiring and respecting her. In fact, I always thought that because I was such a good girl, I deserved to one day have a daughter just as nice :) .

The bad thing I can tell about her is more about her culture. She was conformed to a macho culture and was perpetuating that in our home. While my dad would tell only me and my sister to clear up the table after dinner because we were women (when we would ask: ¨What about him?¨ pointing at my brother, the answer would be: ¨Because he´s a man.¨), I couldn´t help to feel a bit resented that she wouldn´t defend us, step up for the women´s rights.

But later on I understood that I couldn´t simply judge her. She had been educated in much more strict times and she was probably also avoiding fighting with my dad. And though I thought that she was quite trapped in that chauvinistic culture, I realize that she evolved a lot compared to her own childhood.

Just to give an idea of those days, when her parents got divorced (a novelty back then) her brother got kicked out of his catholic school only for boys (cultural behaviors can be really hard to understand when you don´t belong to that place and time).

Another thing that wasn´t perfect was my ridiculous curfew when I started to go out at night, at 1:30 am. She would also never allow me to go to concerts. This made me sleep over at my friends´ houses every time we wanted to party. And hey, I went to as many concerts as I wanted anyway.

Things were not transparent and so she missed on knowing what I was really doing (maybe she pretended not to know). I remember thinking she was so lucky that I was a good girl. Lying about where I was, was my only alternative to have fun at night and go to see my favorite bands and artists.

She went through lots of hard times in life, being the worst her sickness at the end.

When she was ¨healed¨, she didn´t lose any time, she went on a dream trip to Machu Pichu with my dad.

She was sick for three years (with 8 months in the middle of ¨being cured¨). When she was diagnosed with cancer, I told her we would start hugging every day and practice a bit of ¨hug therapy¨. Does it take a loved one to be sick for us to be more physical with them? In my case it did.

At my home, we never said ¨I love you¨ and I never felt less loved because of that. But I did say I love you one day before she died, just to make her sure of it. It took me a lot not having the practice to whisper that in her ear, and it was the last smile I saw on her face.

I was there with her through it all, all of our little family was.

After seeing her die in my hands, in my shift watching her at the hospital, I have to say I felt relieved to see her go and end the suffering.

As cruel as this might sound, even her death was a positive influence on me. It freed me completely. I felt so liberated, like now I could do whatever I wanted without the fear of what she would think, how she would react. I had her so high in my thoughts, that many of my choices (career, friends, and clothes) were related to what I considered that she would like me to do.

At the end of the year when she died, 2003, the year I finished my Journalism College, I simply hit the road. This was my first action with this new found freedom. I went to live in Chile for a few months and then to the Northeast of Brazil where I found my biggest passion in life: surfing.

I never even bothered to get my diploma, for I knew the career meant nothing for me anymore (and heck, I was working as a journalist already without the need of a diploma, it was and still is a useless certificate). What I wanted was a life in a tropical paradise, working in whatever as long as I was happy with my everyday life. There was no way I´d be trapped into building a résumé in a concrete jungle, I´m now all about living in the nature.

Would I have taken off if my mom was still around? Probably, but it would have taken me much more time. I´d be more attached to staying close to her, and if I did build a decent career start, I would probably be more attached to it too. I love my family, but there is nothing like a mother to hold us back home.

I didn´t miss her at all, although I loved her so much and appreciated her so much. I didn´t suffer after her death. I suffered while she was sick, but after that it was all good.

I started missing her the minute I got pregnant.

Being a mom makes me constantly think about her again. About how she educated, conditioned, handled and trained me and my siblings for life. How did she do it? What was here methods? Yes, I remember being in time out, I remember her putting pepper in my tongue when I swore one time, but what about the first years, the ones I can´t recall?

Did she make any time for herself? For how long did she breastfeed? How did she teach us the good manners? Were we reprimanded as young kids?These are questions with no answer, my dad doesn´t remember these things. I can´t ask anyone, the memory is gone.

I can´t ask her to help me, give me an opinion, teach me on anything anymore.

in her pre being-a-mama times

Yet, she did her job well enough. I can´t complain to not have a mother, I lost her when I was 25, an adult. I carry great memories of her, she was one person I truly admired.

Besides her tenderness, her humor, her being around for anything (she was a stay at home mom), I got this love for reading. What else does a mom need to do for her children? She was a perfect mother and I hope to be a lot like her with my little one.


Today some people celebrate because it´s Valentine´s day. I´m celebrating because it was my dear mom´s birthday.

I started by writing this post about her, last Thursday, today I have the morning for myself to work as Luísa is in a Waldorf kindergarten (she said goodbye so easily), this afternoon we have a barbecue and tonight I´ll be at a dinner in front of the Caribbean sea, with bon fire and everything.

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on February 14, 2011. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.


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