On Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

Today I would like us to travel back in time together – one of the things we love most – and remember some of the most cherished moments we have shared.

My first memories of you are those of a smiling, vibrant, charming and elegant young woman, always impeccable and full of life.

You were very young when I was born, only 23. As was usual then, you had only been married for a year and you already had a career as an English teacher at Lourenço Marques high school. In addition to being young, you had a young spirit many mothers did not share: I remember how you loved pop music, to the extent that we had a big living room at home that you transformed into a special “get together” place for listening to music – and you called it the “Pop”. There we had a huge record player (a piece of furniture, actually) with high quality sound, and there you played all the songs you loved and instilled in us the love for them too.

You particularly loved one of the most famous Brazilian singers, Roberto Carlos, and for hours on end we’d listen to his romantic songs; sometimes we’d also listen to the Beatles and to many others and you’d teach us how to dance. Some other times you’d invite some of your pupils to come over and my brother and I would join in, listening entranced to “grown up talk” (even if your students were teenagers to us they seemed grown up!).

You’d take us out in your red BMW 2002, a sports car that you drove quite fast (no use denying it!), as Dad was crazy for BMWs and would have no other cars at home.

Then a huge emotion, when Roberto Carlos went to Mozambique and you took me (barely 8 or 9) with you to the concert, and we danced and sang together all the songs that we loved and heard together.

I remember how I loved to lie in the sun by your side near our swimming pool and pretend I was a lady like you – only to plunge into that most irresistible water in a very unladylike fashion! In fact, I would joke with you because many times you would not dive because you did not want to spoil your hairdo, and now I find myself doing exactly the same!

Even when you went to London we kept in touch constantly, writing very often- although I was much more of a writer than you – and I kept telling you about my hopes and dreams, my joys and heartbreaks. Because I could always tell you everything, and this was not common among my friends. They envied me for having such a “modern Mom”.

In London you took me to see my first musical at 12, “Jesus Christ Superstar”. How I loved it! What an experience we had, again, together.

Even if you never taught me English it was you who gave me my first English novels to read, soon followed by the historical novels I still love; it was you who brought me from England things that were not available in Portugal such as my first perfume “Charlie” by Revlon, a smell that was so unique and so much ” my own” that my fellow students could smell it before they saw me at school; it was you who taught me a woman should always take care of her appearance and should always be allowed a little vanity; it is your example that I have tried to follow all these years while trying to combine a hardworking and very active life with moments to take care of myself: “religiously” going to the hairdresser once a week, for example!

But you also showed me that one non negotiable thing for a woman is her independence, as much as it may come with a cost: for you were always ahead of your time, not adopting Dad’s surname when it was unthinkable not to do so and never giving up on your career when he, already a successful doctor, wanted you to leave it and become a housewife. That may have cost you your marriage and the love of your life, but you didn’t even think twice, and I find you incredibly brave for it. You always urged me to study and have a career, not just a job – something that would be exciting and give me financial independence as well – even if it would have been difficult to equal your passion for your work, namely for that most admired poet you have studied for your whole life – William Butler Yeats.

Your life had many ups and downs, but you always faced them with your indomitable spirit: being a highly sensitive person you may seem week, but that is an illusion… you are also one of the most stubborn persons I know!

Among our most cherished moments we have the summer holidays in Madeira – when you looked so young that everyone thought you were our sister, not mother ( and the practical jokes we played because of it, do you remember?), hours and hours of endless talking when you were in Lisbon, doing “girls” programs with you such as going shopping or to the hairdresser; the smell of roasted chestnuts as we came out of the underground back from Christmas shopping downtown, and above all the secrets we kept from Granny and Granddad as you were always my best accomplice…

All through the years, closer in some moments and further apart in others, we have always kept a bond stronger than most, that of mother and daughter. Even if we have led different lives in many ways, there are some things we share, and maybe the strongest of our common features is that love of freedom, that absolute need to be independent, no matter what.

Many years later it was my turn to take you to see “Jesus Christ Superstar” when it came to Lisbon, and how could I forget that memorable night a few years ago when we went together to Roberto Carlos’ concert in Lisbon. We were much older, as was he, but the magic of his voice and of his songs was intact, and what emotional moments we lived while dancing together with our arms around each other and tears flowing down our cheeks as he sang all the songs we heard more than forty years ago in “Pop”.

Even if we are physically much alike, we are different in our personalities: I am pragmatic where you are a poet, I am cold where you are sensitive, and I am harsh where you are soft. But then I’ve inherited a few things from you: we are both romantic, sentimental, dreamy and nostalgic. And then, you have that “something” very special that has always made you the unique person you are. I have looked and looked for the right word to describe it and finally, I found it, incredibly, in your favourite poem by Yeats “When you are old”: when he writes “…Many have loved your moments of glad grace/and loved you with love false or true/ but one man loved the pilgrim soul in you…”, I had it! Whatever that means – and don’t ask me to describe it, as unlike you, I’m no poet – I think it fits you perfectly. How amazing, to find in one of his poems the best definition of you – a pilgrim soul if ever there was one.

And many, oh so many, have loved the pilgrim soul in you.

 

 

 

 

 

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