I now have two small, young kittens. And sometimes, because of all my bigness, its hard to remember these two obvious, but important facts. And the real reality that I have no idea how these two kittens think or process information. Do they process? Do they rationale? Do they know what they are doing? Those moments that I am awaken at 5am by their two hungry mouths (gosh, they always seem to be hungry) yawning, tongues licking or teeth gnawing at my checks, waiting to be fed. Or when I hear them galloping between the living through the bedroom across my bed onto the window sill and flower pots, dragging dirt everywhere in between. Or when I find them chewing at wires, licking whatever scraps of food left on the table or fallen to the floor, gnawing at phone chargers and extension chords, hanging from the window screen like plastered flies or play fighting with one another for hours on end.
Sometimes the occult and hidden desire to snatch them and fling them across the room, or lock them in the bathroom until they “learn their lesson,” rises up and lures to seep it. To give me a break; respite to think and collect myself. As an adult who was once a child reared in a home ruled by fear and intimidation, emotional and physical abuse; whose backside was often on the receiving end of the hard plastic of an iron chord or greenness of a a new tree branch, whose knees were often on the receiving end of a mat filled with hard, dry, uncooked beans or rice, and whose face was often on the receiving end of backhand or open hand slap, my brain is wired and trained to seek and revert back to that which I experienced. Not necessarily, if ever, to actually do that which I experienced, but for these things to run across my mind. For those forms of control and power, punishment and “lesson learning” to be readily available in my arsenal. Trauma exists, resides, and seeps out of our bodies long after the injuries have occurred.
Recently I mentioned to my mother in passing that these two kittens were so much work. Not having seen or spoken to her in a year and a half, I find myself often scrapping and searching for topics and threads of conversations to have with her. I mentioned it in passing because I had assumed that my sister had already told her that my cat Tubbs–the cat that I got when I was in 6th grade without her permission and that for the 20 years that she lived, became one of the strains in our relationship–had passed away back in March. Their names were not asked, no pictures were requested to be seen. Instead, a quick reaction that there were TWO of them. She responded that human beings–that men–were supposed to procreate and have children–not supplemental children with pets and animals. Convinced, somehow, for some reason, that that was/is what I am doing. Picking up that same thread of conversation she laid out during the first 10 minutes of our first face-to-face conversation after a year and a half of not seeing or having spoken to one another. There was no asking of my teaching, or the progress of my degree. No asking of how I’ve been or what occurred during this time. Or why did stop talking? Most certainly no apology. Just a critique of my weight, my hairstyle, a hand laying a prayer that I will return to God’s righteous ways that ended with a spoken desire that I will give her grandchildren.
Little does she know that the reason I don’t want/cannot have children right now is because I am still learning to take care of myself; learning to architect the home and home environment I so longed for but I did not have growing up. Learning to give myself the emotional support and belief in myself that I was not given when I needed it most. Learning to loving myself–not in bits or pieces, parceling myself in fractured crumbs–but rather in my totality. Learning to keep myself sane and healthy. Learning to keep myself alive. And that I am barely succeeding at that.
Little does she know that the reason I don’t want/cannot have children right now is because I am still learning to step outside of her shadow. Learning to grow and claim skin. Learning to embody an identity that is not constructed by her or others, but rather one that is my own.
We are our mothers. Until we choose not to be.