Stories around mothers and daughters are very common and often complicated. Most mothers are good and caring individuals. However, emotional traumas can still happen to anyone. In this series of “The Awakening,” I’m sharing my spiritual journey of finally overcoming the fears in my life-long relationship with Mama.
I was betrayed by my own mother, Mama, many times since I was a little girl. Mama was very sweet and caring in general, yet very dependent throughout her life. Because of her generational, cultural, and familial conditioning, she didn’t quite know how she could raise a child to be an independent being. Perhaps, she didn’t know back then how to express her love, either. I received repetitive subtle nuances of incomplete love and signs of insufficient affections, which led me to doubt my own qualities and further develop a sense of shame at such a young age.
At my first Autumn Festival in kindergarten, I was five years old. We invited our parents and celebrated a “mini” cultural day inside and outside our class.
On the day of the event, the room was adorned from the ceiling to the walls with balloons in pink, cream, and light blue. Pom-poms and garlands we’d hand-crafted at classes told us, “It’s a special day!” I still remember the joy of making the magic of flowering peonies in pale pink and the color of the sky by unfolding the neatly pleated tissues layer by layer.
One of the main attractions that day was our theatrical recital, which was a simple oral presentation of a short tale without any physical performances. About a dozen of us recited parts of the tale; some presented a few words, others a sentence or two out of the story.
We lined up in two rows; the kids with shorter heights stood on the floor in the front row, and the taller ones were on top of cubic wooden boosters. Standing on the box, I was waiting for the moment to start the skit, sensing cold sweat on my palms, and my throat getting tight and dry. I could see Mama sitting in one of the parents’ seats, but my vision began to blur.
“Let’s start,” Ms. Suzuki, our class teacher announced after a short introduction of us and the story. One by one, several of us shared parts of the story. I was too nervous to even swallow as I was busy counting down to my turn.
“… Tha..that… that aaaafternoon, Tete… Teddy, the bear visited hehe… his ffffrrriend’s house…,” now I began stuttering so badly. And then, I went completely blank and frozen for a second. OMG!! I got stuck! My heart began pumping blood fast, but it didn’t go to my brain… it became emptier… I may be fainting!
Finally, a few seconds later, I brushed off my mind.
“Umm, I’m very sorry… I made a mistake,” I apologized. Then I immediately began to redo my part from the beginning. The audience burst out laughing at me as if they watched a piece of comedy. The pressure was on my shoulders. But this time I recited phrases perfectly smooth and loud enough to let my voice travel to the back of the class.
As I completed my sentences, an expanding warmth filled my chest, radiating a sense of peace in my heart. I peeked at Mama, who was smiling at the neighboring parents as if she was trying to erase the embarrassment she felt.
“Today, I was very proud of Kyomi chan. Regardless of her little mistake, she apologized, corrected it, and re-recited her part wonderfully, didn’t she?” Ms. Suzuki exclaimed at the end of the festival while we were outside.
“To celebrate her courage, we can do ‘a special march.’ So, are you all ready?”
“Yeah!” the class shouted, hurrying up to form a line. We all remembered what the special march meant from a couple of our past experiences.
Now outside in the courtyard, Ms. Suzuki guided me to extend my arms upward to form an arch with her. She also extended her arms adjusting to accommodate my short height to form an arch.
“The class! You can line up and walk under the arch Kyomi chan and I constructed! Come on!” Encouraged by Ms. Suzuki, boys and girls marched through the arch, giggling, and laughing. I was so happy, smiling, and occasionally exchanging a word or two with my friends, who were walking under the arch.
I learned how I could be warm, proud, confident, and so grateful and feel accepted by peers instead of being nervous and feeling shameful of my mistakes.
As soon as the festival was over, I ran toward Mama, expecting she would hug me with her love and pride. But she didn’t hug me or kiss me at all. While we walked back home hand in hand together, I didn’t feel Mama through her hand. Even when we got home, she expressed nothing or appreciated what happened that day, the festival, or the prize that I got from Ms. Suzuki and the class for my bravery.
The love that Mama had always asked me to provide as her best friend wasn’t returned that day. I felt the safety rope for walking in the darkness was cut off. But it was also the beginning of my experiences.
Experiences help us learn and cultivate our own quality and agencies at all ages. But it’s not the experiences themselves but how we place, interpret, and use these experiences that matter most in our lives. Our interpretations of the experiences truly shape how we grow to find a true self.
As a mature woman in my life, I now intentionally re-place and re-interpret past experiences by shedding light differently and keeping the positive guideposts to help me grow freely.