My mother taught me simply how to read the world. Whispers in the wind and screams from the sun went unheard to all except the perceptive ears of my mother, the perpetual listener. Forever focused on everything but herself, my mother embodies nature’s own parent; minding the precarious growth of the ignorant and naïve from behind a proverbial curtain of humility. Who was I, other than the bundle of cells my mother gave identity to with nothing but love and sacrifice? Who am I, other than the product of generations upon generations of mothers’ work concentrated into one selfish, easily-distracted, and technologically addled lump? In understanding my path ahead and recognizing my gifts of today, it is truly my mother who taught me to read the past.
My mother taught me how to read a room. Scanning and decoding the nuance and nose boogers of faces known and unknown, my mother is a queen of faces and majesty of memory. Accurately honing in on insecurities, underlying intentions, and hidden pain, my mother showed me how to read a space and the people within it, to better communicate and connect with the outside world. How she managed to teach me this interpersonal literacy still boggles my mind given the drastic sacrifice and prolonged isolation she faces having given up a life of friendships and family to migrate here to a new and alienating lifestyle. I can find loud soliloquys in the pauses of awkward silences. I can eat in peace at a dinner table of tension. I can spot the love in the air and readily hold my breath. I can detect a genius in the rough, and polish the diamond that is their potential. My mother taught me to read the chapters both written and imagined on the faces and mouths of the people around me.
My mother taught me how to read a contract. Two times and a third to be exact. Making the sound of money appear by audibly scraping a few pennies together, she showed us how a dollar could be earnt while still being burnt by the hand that reluctantly feeds. Watching my mother apply a hard-knock and kitchen-made education to rifle through tax forms, school fees, and home repairs; taught me the importance of reading rather than living in the fine print, and the value of crossed T’s and dotted I’s. My mother is a paper shredder and filing cabinet all rolled into one with the tenacity of a stubbornly puttering fax machine with copy! Phone scams, used car salesmen, dead-end jobs, and welfare applications that’d make you yell “well, that’s not fair”, fuel the literacy lessons in mom’s study. My mother taught me how to write a signature, and of course, when not to use it.
My mother taught me how to read an opinion and separate it from fact. Connecting this and that with the slipperiest of slopes, I have combatted ignorance and fought hate speech with love given the gift to read. Blind to the adult need to be neatly concrete, I was nurtured to be imaginative and inclusive, ready to join and believe in any story heard or conceived, absolutely regardless of colour and creed. Yes, she also taught me how to appreciate a good rhyme scheme. My mother taught me how to appreciate the diversity of thought, the impermanence of feeling, and the poison of ignorant discourse by learning how to read between the lines. It is not without pause and contemplation, that I pick up books even today and feel her gentle breath behind my neck watching as I learn to understand ancient language in a new and chaotic context.
I have learned to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste the truth by reading the world the way that my mother has shown me. With each new dream and innovative spark, I take pride in daring to manifest, I fall back on her intuition, poise, and persistence to create an intuitive listener just like her. I just hope she knows that.