I have watched my mother go through many dramas in my lifetime. Some
of these I’ve written about in this column, others I might not ever
I remember these episodes like they happened this morning.
Thinking of them affects me in ways I’m only beginning to understand.
They sometimes color my mood and influence my actions. Some of them
make up my mind for me when I’m faced with tough decisions.
But the little moments, the long periods between dramatic events,
are harder to recall. We tend to view life like a long line, with
points on it circled in red to highlight the exciting moments, the
periods of adventure. The stretches between these points, we leave
Still, I remember the little moments. I remember, for example, my
mother teaching me how to hold a fork, her fingers patiently pushing
my fingers into place and her face rewarding me with a smile when I
got the hang of it.
I remember Mom at the stove, cooking her children farina for
breakfast. Farina is inexpensive and easy to prepare, and it’s among
the world’s most boring foods. Knowing this, my mother used to slice
thumbnail-sized pieces of lemon peel into the mixture. My brother
Michael and I would make a contest out of who could find the most
pieces in his farina, so by the end of breakfast we would have little
piles of them stacked on the edges of our plates.
My mother did this mostly to keep us amused, but sometimes she
would use the slices to teach us math. “How many pieces do you have
here?” she would say to me, pointing to my pile.
“Seven!” I’d say triumphantly, knowing that Michael found only
“And how many more is that what your brother has?” she’d ask.
I counted his pieces, then mine. “Three!” And my mother would
I remember seeing my Aunt Valia dressed in going-out clothes,
calling my mother from her front porch. “Dolores! We’re going
dancing! Come dance with us!”
Valia was a wild woman who loved to party. She was forever asking
Mom to go with her to clubs for salsa dancing. My mother was a
beautiful woman, and Valia liked to have her around because she
attracted the men.
But Mom, who loves salsa and loves to dance, would always tell her
she couldn’t go, and would wave Valia off. Then she would walk back
into the house, where her children sat at the dinner table demanding
food, demanding protection from siblings, demanding money for
My mother is still a beautiful woman.
But, of course, I mostly remember the drama. Ask me about some
memory of my mother, and what would come to mind would probably not
be the farina or Aunt Valia’s invitations. It would be of some crisis
or adrenaline-charged moment. I might recall, for instance, my mother
leaping in front of me to protect me from my drunken father, her
fingers hooked into claws as she screamed at him that if he touched
me she would kill him. And my father backing away, because even in
his drunkenness, he knew she would.
Or I might remember the dramas of my own making, like the time I
screamed foul names at my mother and dared her to hit me, because I
was 16 and convinced she was no longer capable of punishing me. That
was the same day I discovered, as my father had discovered, how truly
fierce my mother could be when provoked.
The little moments are harder to recall. I have to sit and think
before they come flowing back to me. But when I do, they flow. I’ll
remember the times as an adult when I would come back to my mother’s
door, dragged out and utterly disillusioned after the world had had
its way with me. I’ll remember the day, not so terribly long ago,
when I wrote her a long, indescribably self-pitying letter railing
about the world and its bitter injustices. And I’ll remember the note
that came back, the single handwritten sentence that miraculously
caused me to swallow my bitterness and move on.
“My son,” the note read, “life is what you make of it.”
It bothers me that I remember the dramatic moments more than the
ordinary ones. It was during those everyday moments when I learned
the most from Mom, when her love for her children most clearly
showed. I should remember all of it.
But my memory lingers over the drama and rushes past the ordinary.
I feel like I’m selling myself short. Why focus on the drama, when on
any point in the timeline of my life, I’ll find my mother’s love?
* DAVID SILVA is the editor of the News-Press’ sister papers, the
Rancho Cucamonga Voice and the Claremont-Upland Voice. Reach him at
(909) 484-7019, or by e-mail at email@example.com.