#mymothermademe… (OR DID SHE?)

DNA

No. Not Kendrick’s version of DNA… the actual DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid, a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes.

The carrier of genetic information.

I’m planning on having my DNA mapped, y’know that ancestry.com / 23andme type shit. I’ve always had questions, so now I want to get some answers. I know both my parents. That’s not a question. I know I’m Black. THAT IS NOT A QUESTION DAMMIT. But, both my parents are from the Caribbean and if you know anything about the transatlantic slave trade, you know that means the lines back to Africa aren’t as straight as they could be.

My first question would be more of an explanation. You see, I don’t LOOK like either parent. It’s said that I look JUST like my father, but yeah…no. People who know both of us don’t see it. My mother used to say it all the time, but I think that was just the angry divorcee talking.

I don’t look like my mother and since I was raised by her, the “oh! That’s your mom/daughter” surprise was – and IS – constant. For example, the day after the parent teacher conference my gym teacher said, “I didn’t know your father was White.”

Me: He isn’t.

Her: But…I…your mom? Are you sure?

Me: BITCH I’M SURE!

I didn’t SAY that, but my face did. Annoyed, I asked my mother’s permission to take one of the three photos of my father she had to school with me.

My mom: WHY?

Me: Stupid gym teacher met you and assumed my dad is White. I need to prove her dumb ass wrong.

My mom: (handing me the photo) don’t swear! Don’t lose the picture.

Brought the photo to school the next day and said, “HOW YA LIKE ME NOW?!?”

Okay I didn’t SAY that. I said, “THIS is my father.”

Or IS he?

There was a joke in my family that I easily could’ve been switched at birth and that my mother actually wondered that when she first held me. I was born via C-section, so there was a curtain, and my mom was drugged up a bit, and they just kinda said, “here she is (held up), and she’s healthy! BRB!”

Later, when she was in the recovery area with the other new moms, they brought me over. She took one look at me and (allegedly) said to the nurse, “are you SURE this is her?”

As her second child, my mother was expecting me to look similar to my sister. My sister was an adorable little light brown bundle (our father is #teamlightskint) with a tiny baby afro (“so much hair!”), and chubby cheeks. Me?

Growing up I heard the story. One day my mother heard me repeating it to a friend and stopped to correct me. You see, I thought I was told that when my mom first saw me, she thought I was Puerto Rican.

My mom (to me an my friend): I NEVER said that! I didn’t think you were Puerto Rican when you were born…

I thought you were PORTUGUESE.

Yup. My mother thought I was some random White baby and Portuguese because that was the first type of White person she thought of.

Puerto Rican would’ve made MORE sense because growing up in my neighbourhood, I was mistaken for Dominican or Colombian on a fairly regular basis. My friends’ parents would speak to me in Spanish when they met me, and then I would have to awkwardly explain that I wasn’t Latina.

“Oh. So your parents didn’t teach you Spanish?”

“No. I’m not Dominican.”

“Oh. Really?”

This happened to me as recently as ten years ago. By that point I had picked up a few words and phrases. We had taken a trip to the Dominican for a wedding. When we arrived at the resort, the man behind the desk said, Hola y bienvenido, ¿quieres una bebida?

Me: whaaaaaaaaa? Did we pick a resort with no English speaking staff?

(Please keep in mind that this was the third person to speak to me in Spanish.)

The same gentleman, turned to my friend and said – IN ENGLISH – “welcome to our resort. Would you care for a beverage? If I can get your name I can check you and your party in.”

Me: whaaaaaaaaaaa.

For the rest of the trip, I had to correct people in town, the staff at the resort, and even GUESTS at the resort. I even learned to say, “No soy dominicana, soy canadiense” (I’m not Dominican, I’m Canadian) because it happened so much.

One of the guys who worked near the beach looked me up and down, laughed and said, “you need to talk to you mom”.

YEARS later, I take my beloved mother out to lunch. Over our appetizers she says, I was talking to your aunt the other day, and we were talking about how Daddy (my Bajan grandfather) would reminisce about his childhood in Cuba—

I snatched the edamame my mother was causally putting into her mouth and said, “woman what are you talking about?”

My grandfather had passed away 15 years earlier. At the time, I was confused about two things: the name on the program was a completely different name than the one I knew him to have and, in his last days, he only spoke Spanish. Both were explained with a hand wave and the words, “don’t ask me now”.

If you have West Indian parents, then you know “don’t ask me now” means, “never speak of this again”. Which is how #SecretsOfTheWestIndies are created. This is how people find out about long lost siblings, uncles who are really brothers, second wives, first husbands…

…and why I want to get my DNA mapped. Questions need answers.

My friends have already started taking bets. If you want in on the pool, there is an assumption that I have Asian blood.

HAHAH NO*

 

 

 

*pending results.

 

 

 

 

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My Mother Does Not Drink…

My mother doesn’t drink. Yes. We call this Ironic.

I used to see her drink, there is photographic evidence, but one day in her 40’s, she decided to stop her weekly glass of white when she found out her thyroid was out of whack. That’s my mother’s way, if something isn’t right, in her life, she’ll just change it. She’s pretty good at change.

My mother left her home in her Barbados and the only life she knew to live in Canada in 1960. She was fortunate that her two older sisters had already come up here, but she was significantly younger than them – and just a wee bit rebellious.

My mother in the 60s… drank. There was a time she was out at every West Indian social club in the city (and the Scotian one for good measure). I’m still trying to find out more about the time she went to a club in Detroit and got stranded there when her ride – her friend’s boyfriend – got into a fight and he said “find your own way home!” To Toronto.

In the late 60s my mother drank Martinis at the Four Seasons Bar each Friday with the girls from the office. New dress every week. Standing in line at Azan’s to get her hair pressed and curled to perfection.

When her roommate introduced her to my father, she wasn’t impressed. She had a good life; what could HE offer? In fact, when my father rang my mother up to ask her out on a date, she declined saying she didn’t have anything to wear…

While looking at three dresses in her closet with the tags still on them.

My mother in the 70s spent her life living between Toronto and Jamaica for months at a time. The jet setter life was one my older sister experienced, but by the time I showed up, those days were done, and so was my parents’ marriage.

(Thank goodness)

Ask my mother about the time she “forgot” she was married, and instead of going home to cook dinner for my father, she went for cocktails with the girls. Came home to find my father struggling to make scrambled eggs on the stove at 11:30 pm.

My mother in the 80s saw her world crash right along with the economy. That’s when she started making changes and fighting back. She regrouped at her older sister’s house with her two kids. Got a couple of jobs. An apartment. A rhythm.

A survival system.

One day, my mother looked in the cupboards. She was between paycheques, and the cupboards showed how bad the situation was. She doesn’t know that I remember, but I watched my mother swallow her pride and call a friend for a loan. He was an old friend of my father’s who would check in on us. I remember him handing her the $50 and taking her to the Knob Hill Farms to buy food. My mother swore through gritted teeth and tears that the cupboards would never be empty again.

She’s kept that promise.

I don’t know how much my mother went without because I never knew we were lacking. I never missed a birthday. Or a Christmas. We had vacations. She sent my sister and I out to get our hair done (we had a lot of hair, and she didn’t have that much patience).

I never went without food, clothing, or knowledge. When I started asking questions she couldn’t answer, she bought the encyclopedia set in installments. Don’t ask me about stuff after F though.

My mother in the 80s saw that technology was going to make her job obsolete, she got a loan, went back to school, and learned what was next. When the layoffs hit, she was ready.

When I was in grade 4, I caught a vicious cold, the kind that lingers in your chest for weeks. Finally the cold was gone, along with my voice. About a week after the worst of it, my mom woke me up to get ready for school. I got out of bed and hit the floor.

“Stop playing. It’s time to get up.”

“I can’t. I can’t feel my legs.”

It was March. There was a lot of snow on the ground. My mom didn’t know how to drive. She called my doctor, called her job to tell them the situation, picked me up and carried me.

She carried my 9 year old paralyzed from the waist down body on public transit from Jane n’ Finch to Bathurst and Lawrence. For non-Toronto residents, that’s about an hour of travel. In the middle of winter. At the doctor, who couldn’t figure out what was wrong, she kept her cool while they put me in a cab to go to SickKids. She kept her composure while they poked and prodded. By four o’clock I could walk again, so we got back on transit and headed home. She made me my favourite foods and let me stay up late.

When teachers told her that her little Black girls would be better off in remedial classes or taking up trades, she took time off work to cuss them in person. You have not lived until you see a 5’2 Bajan woman cuss out a 6’2 school principal in the school’s atrium, waving proof of his lack of a high school diploma in his face calling him a hypocrite.

There’s flight and there is fight. My mother will choose fight every single time. So will I. So we’re gonna skip over the 90s because well…lots of fights.

In fact, there is only one time I saw my mother choose flight. When the doctor looked at the clock in the ER and called the time of death for my sister one New Year’s Day. She ran from the room screaming. It was the second time she lost a child and it was too much to bear.

She fought back from the lowest depths of depression for one reason: me. I overheard her say to a friend that she had to stay strong for me. I went into my room and cried silently. The irony was that I had been trying to stay strong for her, following her example that you must always fight.

So I do. In her honour.

Yes. #mymothermakesmedrink…

Each time I do, I raise a glass in her honour.

xoxo

#MyMotherMadeMeDrink – Xmas 2016

On Christmas Eve, my mother asked me about my dating life.

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I dodged the question.

On Christmas Day, a friend of the family called.

“Auntie says Merry Christmas and wants to know when you’re getting married.”

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Blame the sorrel and spiced rum for my response: “CAN I GO ON A DATE FIRST?! Merry Christmas”

On Boxing Day, my mother casually drops that she has never liked any of the men I’ve dated.

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Wait. What?

My mother thought I was going to marry one of these dudes! I didn’t even think I was going to marry one of them!

“Uhm. You thought we’d get married…?”

“Yeah. But I realized later. He was a six at best.”

“A SIX? You’d thought I would marry a SIX?”

“Welllll. Not NOW. But you were young then. I didn’t like the cheater at all. Nope.”

“Okay. Not at first, but–”

“Not EVER. I never told anyone. Except your sister. She agreed.”

WAIT.

HOLD UP.

You welcomed these men into your home. Made meals for them. But you never once expressed your doubts to me?!?!

“I didn’t like the one from high school. The wannabe rapper.”

WAIT. We’re going into the archives?

My mother basically told me ANY dude I’ve brought home over the past 25 years has been “meh”. That is a direct quote. “Meh.”

“You know who I’d think you like? That Steph Curry. I think that would be cute.”

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“Mom. I can’t date another liteskint dude. We’d look related!”

(Let’s pause for a moment since my mom laughed for a full twenty seconds.)

“Really? Hmmm. I guess. But if you can’t date light skinned men, how you gonna date a White guy”

“I don’t LOOK WHITE mother”

“Wellllll. Wait. Why are you pouring more rum into that sorrel?”

#MyMotherMadeMeDrink – October 9, 2016

Visit mom for the holiday weekend…

Dare I say it? She was actually quite…good.

Cussing Donald Trump. Cussing the “old men” who live in her building. Speaking her knowledge on Residential Schools on Indigenous Peoples Day weekend.

We even found something to agree on: Rob and Chyna is fucking ridiculous and sad reflection of pop culture tastes/societal values.

Look, go ahead and judge. We were trying to avoid the televised debates and that was our option.

My mother’s shade moment:
Me: (referring to Chyna while defending her against Rob) But she’s the mother of his child…

Mom: you actually want to call her a “mother”?! Just because she’s having a baby doesn’t make her a mother…and who gets acrylic nails while pregnant? Isn’t that toxic? 

I actually thought that I would get away scott free this weekend. But no.

You know how you have that hidden insecurity? The one that you’re not sure is a “thing”, because you don’t think about it too much, but if you did, it would probably bother you?

Mine is my hair. Specifically the colour of my hair.

I’m lucky to have my family’s “never age” gene. I’m #teamlightskint but I have just enough Black to not crack. However, my hair did not get the memo. I started to go grey at 24. Sometimes I like they grey because I can point to it when I’m getting carded at the liquor store.

(and if you’re reading this blog, you can tell I go to the liquor store)

But other times, I feel like it makes me look…TIRED. Not old. But haggard. Washed out.

Over the last month (since I turned 40), I’ve wondered what to do with the colour. I chopped my hair in August and LOVE the cut. But it also shows off EVERY GREY HAIR I HAVE.

To myself, in the mirror, I thought, “okay…let’s live with it a bit and see…”

Notice how mothers always seem to know WHAT that one little thing that is bothering you is?

TEN MINUTES AFTER ARRIVING AT MY MOTHER’S.

Her: “GAWD your hair is GREY! What colour IS it exactly? Is it Black? Grey? Red? Brown?”

Me: har har har…

This morning. Get out of the shower and see my reflection.

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I hear my mother’s voice echoing though my head.

So…

My hair is now “Dark Golden Brown”

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#mymothermademedrink

My Mother Made Me Drink – August 15, 2016

*phone rings*

“Hello Mother…”

“Hello Daughter…”

(she’s catching on to my sarcasm…cool!)

We talk about general stuff and then she said, “there was something else I was going to ask you. I can’t remember.”

“Was it about the dog?”

“No. I already asked about him.”

“Was it about my birthday? That’s coming up…”

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“No. That’s always gonna be there. It wasn’t that. I’ll call you when it comes to me. Bye.”

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*if you’re not following me on Twitter, you may not know that last month, my dog got a birthday present. It’s a milestone birthday. He’s five. She bought him a stuffed toy from The Secret Life of Pets. For those of you who DO follow me on Twitter…yes I’m still jealous.

#mymothermademedrink

#mymothermademedrink – April 30, 2016

*rings*

*dog barks*

Hello…

My mother called to give me an update on her boobs. She’s a two-time breast cancer survivor (#fuckcancer)…and she’s annoyed by the scar.

“It’s just a little scar”

“That’s true. Okay. Be careful! Bye!”

“Wait. What do I need to be careful of?”

“Oh. I was watching the news. Body parts being found. Shootings in Scarborough…shootings in Etobicoke…”

“Well. I never go to Scarborough or Etobicoke”

“Neither do I thank god. Because I don’t know what the fuck is going on in this world…”

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I’m just as shocked as you. (p.s. G’head Fran…another survivor)

My mother RARELY swears and if she chooses to use the word “fuck”, she normally muffles it. Yes. She censors herself.

This time she didn’t.

I’m clutching my pearls.

#mymothermademedrink – April 18, 2016

Enjoying some peace and quiet in the shower and letting the deep conditioner do its thing while I shave my legs.

*phone rings*

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Meh. It’s probably my girl confirming out meeting time of 2pm…

*phone stops. rings again*

SHIT

I now run out of the shower, because if you call me back to back…it’s an emergency.

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Towel halfway wrapped around me, I run to retrieve the phone in the living room. Pick up and drop phone with soapy wet fingers. Pick up phone again and get a mild shock because I’M SOAKING WET AND THE PHONE IS CHARGING.

“Hi! Hang on (drop phone activate speaker). What’s wrong!?

“You’re not superstitious right?”

“I was in the shower! Two calls in a row is an emergency!”

“Well. I didn’t KNOW you were in the shower…So. As I was saying…”

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#mymothermademedrink

If I have to run out of a shower sopping wet, there better be a Ryan Reynolds to trip over and not just a Yorkie Doodle!

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