She is there inside my head: a little girl, all by herself. A charming little girl, curious about life and energetic. And even though her face is turned away, I think that she is also rather precious in the way that all little girls are, with a sweet and gentle disposition.
I've been thinking about her lately. I see her playing by herself, inventing games, letting her imagination take over, alone and yet not lonely. There are also games and times spent with a childhood friend or two. But I usually see her alone.
And I used to think that little girl was me. Just because I've been writing about my own journey, sharing episodes from my past and present, as well as questions for the future, I thought that the little girl had to be me. Her dark hair, her small build. Who else could she be?
I see her more clearly now. And yet, it isn't really so clear. But I understand it better now and I know that she isn't me. She is my mother, the other little girl, the child who grew up fatherless, helping her mother with the housework; a pretty child who smiled sweetly for the camera. A little girl who finally had a father when she was twelve years old. And her foster father, as she referred to him, would later walk her down the aisle at her wedding. A bright child, innocent and naive. And yet, was she really so naive, having grown up with a mother who was a dance-hall hostess? Even my younger brother mentioned that with her upbringing in that type of environment - and what was it like? - our mother turned out very well. An altogether decent and lovely human being who believed in family and faith, and who had a mind of her own.
I never really understood what it was like to be her. She was attractive and fair complexioned, with a turned-up nose, a cupid-shaped mouth and soft dark hair with titian highlights. Her skin, too, was soft. Always soft. There is an image in my head of myself as a young girl, peeling away at the dark eye-liner on my mother's eyelids as she took a nap in the car on the way home. If that image is there, it must have happened.
If I compared my own looks to my mother, I would lose the battle. I had always felt that whilst growing up. Physical beauty wasn't everything, I realised even then. And, of course, I would nit-pick at her faults if I should find any.
My mother was my grandmother's only child or the only child that she actually gave birth to, according to family history. She never really told us much about her childhood. She did tell me that a young man liked her and even wrote a poem for her and I remember that I was rather tickled by her stories. Her experiences seemed so different from mine for I was so shy with teenaged boys and kept to myself so much. I now wish she had told me much more.
After her marriage, she gave birth to six children, only five survived. Losing her first child - a daughter - was an extremely painful experience, and she told us stories of her stay in the hospital after the death of that child at only five days old.
Her marriage to my father seemed to give her everything. She had a hard-working husband, five children close in age, beautiful clothes to wear, vacations with the family, even her own career. And she was hardly separated from my father for they almost always went to work together and came home together as they worked in the same company.
But did she really have everything?
I look back and no, she didn't. It would be easy to say yes, she did, for at first glance, one would certainly think so. And I used to think so, even after having known about my father from my own personal experiences. What did she know about him before their marriage? And what did she know or discover afterwards? Wanting to know more about my father, even the secrets, doesn't mean that I wish to cast him in a bad light. I sometimes think that, in a way, it is easier for me because he is no longer alive. And yet, it really isn't so easy, is it. I just want to know more about the man who happened to be my father - who was, and will always be, my father - to maybe even understand him, even if it's only a little bit. And who better to tell me than the woman who spent twenty-three years of married life with him.
She is much older now and life isn't always easy for her either for she seems destined to bear a burden or two. And they are heavy indeed. Neither one of my parents were close to perfect as much as I appreciated the good and admirable qualities that they passed down to me. Their children aren't perfect either. We all have made, and probably still make, our own mistakes. But hasn't she suffered enough? It isn't fair. I don't see it as fair but I suppose I don't really have a say as I myself am thousands of miles away from her. It was a choice that I made, a choice which I look back on with much regret, I have to admit. I now have my own home. There are no children ... yet? Or there are no children. Childbirth and child-rearing are two experiences that I cannot share with her. And, oh, how I wish I could.
I still see that little girl, that other little girl who spends time by herself, playing games that she made up on her own. Not knowing the future, just living in the present. Is that how it really was? What was it really like? She was that little girl who grew up to become a wife, a mother, a widow, and then a grandmother. She has so much to share with me. And once again, I want to hear her stories, her experiences, both good and bad.
She was my grandmother's daughter. And she is my mother. She was almost twenty-seven when I was born. I always remember that. Why? Because it's mine to remember for always.
You have done well, little girl. But still I can't help but cry for you.
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