She looked into the mirror and mouthed, “I wasn’t a good mother.” She tried again but couldn’t make a sound, the words strangling her so as not to emerge. Tears pooled in her eyes and followed the noticeable lines, tributaries for the overspill. When did they get so deeply etched into my face? Time hadn’t healed the wounds, it only served to make the scar tissue a little smoother, or at least nondescript enough for Sara and her daughter to go for a few years at a time without mention of the past. But the past always inevitably came up.
By 21, Sara had already had two children, though not uncommon for the time. I left my homeland and everything I knew for a country that was a world away. The language was foreign, the culture a deeply guarded secret that no one wanted to initiate her into. To the more liberal minded, she was an exotic specimen from a faraway place, making it acceptable to smile politely, speak slowly and loudly and reach out to touch her hair, the response always a giddy delight to feel her afro bouncing back after the uninvited hand was pulled away. The same differences that deemed her exotic made her a target of words she couldn’t understand, hurled at her in anger. That was the outer world. At home, where all should have been safe and familiar was just as hard, if not harder. A husband Sara hadn’t chosen, a marriage of convenience rather than one of love made her feel like an island, alone and stranded amidst unfamiliar waters. She told herself it was what was best for the children, leaving them with their grandmother in that faraway place where she’d become a stranger. It was easier that way, to keep the tears at bay, and Sara eventually believed it, believed in the idea of a family, a niggling thought at the back of her mind, the place where her hard earned money was wired. After 6 years, this idea was in her lounge room and she wasn’t equipped with mothering skills. Years rolled by as they do- two children who were strangers growing taller, becoming their own people, caught between two cultures, drifting further from the idea she’d held onto.
Now Sara’s daughter has a child of her own. I was hoping it would change things, a chance for a new beginning. She tries once again, but can still only mouth, “I wasn’t a good mother.” In her reflection, she sees the cruelty of time, she sees all that she could have been clouded over in her tear stained eyes. I wish that she loved me. Breaking the silence, her words erupt, spilling out quickly before she can change her mind, “I wasn’t a good mother” perhaps now if I tell her, it can be the beginning.