Clarita the Woman
When I sit and think about all that my mother did for us, I feel like I should have done more for her. Given her more and realized that as her child, it shouldn't have been all about my needs. But mothers do not lean on their children for strength and guidance. Mothers are the bridges, the chains, the glue that holds everything together. Mothers are the caregivers. We, as mothers, put on a brave face. We, as wives, build a foundation. We, as everything else, must keep it together.
But how do we get that woman back? How do we build ourselves back up to the woman we used to be? It's simple. We remember what used to bring us joy and what filled our hearts before our family obligations. And it may be that you, the woman and you, the partner, the mother, the friend can coexist happily if you learn to respect and love the both sides of yourself.
Here are Clarita's Top 5 of coexistence:
She loved her garden. Growing up I would watch her in our backyard for hours just planting away. She never even attempted to teach me. It was her time and I was just a quiet spectator. People from the neighborhood would steal the apples and pears from her trees all the time and she never got upset about it. She'd just tend her garden making sure her plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables were healthy. It still amazes me how she created such beauty all by herself.
A Rose Bush in The Bronx
If you were hungry, you could go to her house at any given time and she would feed you. It didn't matter if she just met you or she'd known you for years. And don't even try to deny her trying to feed you. She'd be absolutely offended and she would mention it to me for days even if the person was not my guest. Don't you dare be on a diet and have tried to visit her. You'd have to just concede and eat. There would have been no discussion.
She loved to look pretty. She'd wear her "whatever" clothes around the house or to run errands. But if she went to a school meeting or to church, best believe she'd have a new outfit ready to wear. She raised me to always make a presentable impression on people with my clothes. She was a woman of few words when you met her so her clothes had to speak to you. One time I dared to try to wear jeans to church. Ha, ha, ha! No, no, no. My Mom was not having it. And to this day, I dress up for any school meeting, anything that involves meeting new people or any outing. It's like clockwork. I wouldn't want to disappoint her. And even in her hospital bed she agreed to get her nails done. So my older sister, Evelyn, gave her a manicure. But she forgot the pedicure and she was very insistent she got one. But we never go the chance.
We had the same hands
She loved to joke around and her laugh was infectious. You would always just laugh with her even if you had no idea why you were laughing. She was literally ALWAYS laughing. She celebrated being joyful and it spread from her like wildfire. She also often laughed at herself because she was such a klutz! My favorite memory of her was at Jones Beach, NY years ago. She's by the water enjoying the day and then this huge wave came up and knocked her right down. She was laughing so hard, she couldn't get up. She just kept rolling and rolling and rolling. My cousin Lissette and I? Just laughing and laughing and laughing. My father? Just yelling and yelling and yelling. Man, that was a good day. And of course her love of t-shirts. You know those goofy shirts with a sarcastic saying or with a cartoon character? She had tons. Anytime I see someone wearing one now, I automatically and fondly think of her.
She believed in the foundation of family until the end. Although she could have lost Clarita the Woman, she fought hard to keep her around. But I know she felt unappreciated because she would say as much. However, she was always proud to be Clarita the Mother, Clarita the Wife and Clarita the Friend.
In her new Florida home, 1995
And while I may never be able to see her this way again, I know that her legacy will live on. She was an impactful woman and those who knew her and loved her were lucky to have such a special person in their lives. She is a part of me and I will hold her memory close to my forever broken heart.