Veronica and Mother

It never got easier, and I never got used to it. It was the condition you forced on me, and for the thirty years that I didn’t get to call you Mom, it didn’t matter what I did or didn’t do. I was prohibida, excluded from my family. Access Denied. My only choice was to forget you, or wait.

Of course there really isn’t any forgetting. Not willfully, anyway. I’ve heard people on both sides of estrangement tell themselves that lie in order to convince themselves, to make the wait bearable. One week, one month, one year, one decade after the other. Ultimately, waiting for you became what defined me more than anything else I’ve done.

When you wait in silence a long time, you see, you develop this ability to exist in two places at once. It’s like a part of you is drugged or drunk, and the other one functions pretty well. On the outside you keep moving, but inside you’re really stopped. Not resting—I don’t remember ever feeling rested. Just stopped. That was the sense I had from the beginning, from the night you told me to leave your house. I was a teenager walking out into that blizzard. I remember I didn’t have any gloves, I’d left them behind in the commotion, and I really loved those gloves, a blue-gray knitted pattern I’d just gotten for my birthday from that sweet boy, Adam, who liked me so and I didn’t realize it, or couldn’t realize it, then. I pushed through the snow and wind as fast as I could to get away from your fury. Still, when I think about it, all this time, I’ve never moved from that spot on your front porch, waiting to be called back in. I looked for a pair of gloves like those for years.

It didn’t fit  me, being excluded. It was unnatural. I liked people. And people liked me. It wasn’t like you were dead, or some awful act of fate had separated us. I had a mother, a family, and we lived in the same city, practically in the same neighborhood, close enough to run into. I mean, the situation was very strange. I couldn’t see you, or share my life with you. But I didn’t hate you. You wouldn’t let me come home—that was punto, final—but you couldn’t make me hate you.

So, where could I go from there?

It became my way of life. This sense that there was always something else out there, lingering, unfinished. The way you can walk back into a room, certain you’ve left something important behind, but you don’t know what it is and you search, thoroughly, but can’t find anything. A part of me was always missing. I could never relax, really, because I was expecting something, someone, to show up. So I was distracted from my real life. Always preparing to be burst in on.

I didn’t know where I belonged. No one called me sister, or hija, or daughter. I wanted to belong to my husband, to his family, later to my work, to a lover. But I wasn’t welcomed by my own people, so it was hard to claim anything as mine. With my own children, there was a part of me, even if I didn’t want to hear it, that kept nagging—in the background and barely audible, but relentlessly—This, too. Don’t get too used to this.

–from Tesoro, Chapter 2