There are three words that people seem to say every time they find out that I have four brothers (and no sisters),
three words that always seem to leave people’s mouths and float aimlessly into thin air like soapy bubbles through a kid’s plastic ring.
“Your poor mother.”
Oftentimes these same people make a face of some kind, usually one of great concern as if I had just informed them that my mother had just been in some kind of horrible accident and that we should probably make sure that all of her affairs were in order. There, of course, is absolutely no proper way for me to respond to these people other than to politely agree with them, maybe even utter the words, “Yes. Yes, I know.”
Others, women mostly, shake their heads and look at me with utter disgust (people can be so judgy) as if they absolutely know my mother went through a whole rash of shit raising five boys, including trips to emergency rooms, numerous parent-teacher conferences in which she had to sit and see teachers cry, and more bumps and bruises than one could count. And to those people’s credit, well, they would be correct. We did put my parents – mostly my mother – through a world of shit.
“She’s got a special place in Heaven waiting for her,” these people usually conclude.
“Yeah, she’s a goddamned saint,” a part of me always wants to reply but I don’t, mostly because the five of us owe our smart-assery, and, to a certain extent, assholery, to her. She’s the one that saw the humor in informing my older brother, Steven, that he was adopted – and kept him on the hook for nearly a month. During high school when Steve would stay on the phone for hours on end talking to his girlfriend, my mother would sneak off to the other house phone, quietly pick up the line as if it was a microphone, and belt out Christmas carols.
“Your poor mother,” they say.
This was the “poor” woman who convinced the five of us during Christmas vacation – all of us were in elementary school at the time except for Mark, who was 3 or 4 years old – that the whole concept of Santa Claus was a myth, therefore, there weren’t going to be presents under the tree that year – and to our dismay she went through with it (sort of).
“Honestly, this is a huge weight off of my shoulders,” she confided in us that December. “You know how tiring it is to keep up a charade like that?”
If you ask her, she’ll tell you that having five sons before the age of 30 “will change a person.” My mother has told people that before she got married, she really didn’t care for watching sports on television. Fast forward to last Sunday’s Cowboys game…
“TACKLE HIM YOU SON OF A BITCH!” she screamed, loud enough for the neighbors to hear.
She may not have liked sports during her single life but once the five of us came around and started playing organized sports, she was a fixture at ballparks, gyms and fields all over the county. I remember the summer that we played on 3 separate baseball teams with our schedules often overlapping. The image of her sitting in a folding chair and shielded by a bright, oversized umbrella in between fields is just as vivid for me today as it was when I was 11.
Today, of course, she is the proud grandmother to 9 kids and my brothers and I watch her interact with our children in astonishment. She’s patient, gentle yet firm when she needs to be. How she gets my daughter Zoe to eat is a miracle unto itself. It’s abundantly clear that this is not the same desperate and maniacal woman that raised us, when the words, “When your father gets home I’m going to tell him to use his belt!” was more like a mantra.
“Your poor mother!” is the name of the project I’m working on in 2016, a collection of short stories and essays on how my mother basically put up with more crap than a colon. Sharing this short intro here is my way of setting the table for the rest of the year for this project. The “mother” project is going to be a fun way to look at the past, dust off old stories with my brothers and reminisce. That I get to share them and all my previous projects is beyond awesome for me. And I have those of you who’ve stopped by to thank.
Here’s to an incredible 2016!
Summer Son/hijo del sol is scheduled to be published by Floricanto Press in early 2016. Follow me @phillipdcortez for more shenanigans.