Dear Thriving Bride,
I will be married in 16 days and I have no desire to see my parents at my wedding, but I do want to honor my mother for who she taught me to be. I have told you many things, but I have not told you that I feel more at peace each and every day with my decision to not have them there. I miss my mother so much, but I miss my idea of her even more.
My mother always supported anyone who was hungry, underprivileged, under served and dismissed. She was unable to do this for herself with my father, but she showed me how to do it in other ways. My mother took me to see Nelson Mandela speak in Boston in 1990, shortly after he was released from prison. My mother greeted new immigrant families upon their arrival and took them straight to the food bank and invited them to our house to celebrate their first Thanksgiving in America.
My mother received her degree and taught elementary school for almost 20 years, and was always so good with the little kids. Every year the space below the Christmas Tree was filled with wrapped boxes with her name on it. Her student’s parents always made sure she received something special for the holidays. My mother taught me how to live a life of purpose, and like me, my mother left what she knew (her Nigerian village) to pursue an education abroad. Even though I went from Boston to Berkeley, I still chose to live pretty far away from my parents in pursuit of my dreams: to educate my whole self, to heal from a sordid history and to move from surviving to thriving.
My mother also showed me things that I should never ever do in my life. I remember the day my father got upset with her for something or another and slammed a wooden comb into her forehead and then proceeded to slam her head against the kitchen tile. That day changed me. No matter how hard I tried, I would always remember her with the comb embedded in her brow, and the shock on her face coupled with the trickling blood. That was not all of who my mother was, but that day she became the woman who almost let a man kill her. And that scared me.
I survived that moment by deciding that I would never be that woman. I did not know who I would become, but that was not it. I would be stronger, braver, more outspoken and never find myself in that position. I had it planned out. In the end, there really was no plan. In the end, I watched men carefully and gave them my trust if they had soft hands and eyes that told the truth. That ended up being the only thing that I knew would serve me well.
I am getting married in 16 days and on the cusp of starting my own family. May there be enough love surrounding both of us so that my children remember me as the woman who lived her life in honor of her mother’s grace and in forgiveness of her mother’s faults.