Mami, No Te Olvides

Mami, No Te Olvides
(Mother, Don’t Forget)
by Aila Shai Castane

I used to admire my mother
For the way her loose curls blew in the wind
For the way her heavy Spanish accent rolled off of her tongue
For the way she pronounced words in English that sounded like a song
For the way her hips moved fast, as if Merengue Tipico was the soundtrack to her steps
For the way she cooked with a flavor so proud
For the way she read her Spanish-translated Bible at night
For the way she radiated so effortlessly

I admired her.

Until the first-generation child syndrome kicked in
When quality education meant assimilation
When “stay in school so you don’t end up like me”
Translated to “stay in school so you can erase all traces of me”

I admired her until I realized you hated her.

For the way her loose curls blew in the wind
For the way her heavy Spanish accent rolled off of her tongue
For the way she pronounced words in English that sounded like a song
“Learn English! You’re in America!”
You said.
You hated the way her hips moved fast
But you sure did love the way her hips moved fast to scrub your floors
You hated the way she cooked
But called yourself “cultured” when you tried the new Mexican spot in your gentrified neighborhood
You hated the way she read in Spanish
You said her English was too “broken” for your taste

You said.

You said.

You said.

You hated her.

You hated her.

You hated her.

And that’s when I realized she hated her.

She started wearing her hair in a bun
She tried to sound like the white picket fence version of herself
She became more quiet
More docile
Her hips moved slower, as if the melancholy cries of Bachata guided her steps
Halfway torn between nostalgia and wanting to forget
She started cooking less
Like she was afraid of the power of her sazón

She wants me to graduate
But the same education she has pushed on me
Is the same education that has pulled us apart
I can’t help but think my degree will be a slap in the face
I never knew it was possible to feel both pride and guilt in the same breath
I’ve come to hate that about myself

I’ve come to hate the fact that my mother admires me

Mami, no te olvides

that I admire

You.

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