Mother, if I could gift you anything today,
I’d gift you my eyes so you could see…
See what I see when I see you,
See what you’ve meant to me;
Comfort, joy, warmth, love…and most of all- beauty.
Like any little girl, I looked at you and saw who I wished I’d grow up to be.
I lurked in the background when you draped your lovely sarees,
Making note of every tuck and fold, and lo and behold –
the vision that you made in all your feminine glory.
I couldn’t wait for the day when I’d be old enough to emulate your skill,
turning this way and that, filled with eager anticipation...
for the planes and angles of my pre-pubescent body
to bloom into the dips and curves of your rubenesque form,
Oh, how I waited!
I paraded in your high heels,
got into your jewelry box and played with your pearls,
no longer a girl in my childish shenanigans; but a Lady.
I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point I realised,
that when strangers and acquaintances walked up to you
and informed you of our growing likeness,
It wasn’t meant to be a compliment;
that you could hear the barbed asides - where I couldn’t.
I wish I knew then, that it wasn’t us but them,
but all I could see was that you did agree,
And I couldn’t look past what I knew you must see- when you see me –
that I had failed you, I had failed to be – pretty!
Every time I hugged you and breathed in your scent; of roses in bloom
I thought to myself – such beauty!
I looked at the cascading waves of your hair, the sharp incline of your nose, the hazel luminosity of your gaze – beauty!
As you lay in bed, I’d come and hug your bottom,
blow raspberries on your belly, try and snuggle in your arms,
always fighting, with the little urchin who so unceremoniously supplanted me from being the baby of the house, for the luxury of laying in your generous embrace -
every time I managed to score a nap, drifting into dreamland I’d murmur to myself – beauty…
Yet, in waking hours I wondered, just how could it be – that you couldn’t see?
How could it be that you could so easily dismiss the bountiful grace – in you, and me?
I remember now, compliments being shrugged aside, praise always qualified,
Every kind word that came your way, accompanied, always, with “work hard and you’ll be thin one day”,
I know you accepted the promise of the Holy Grail, the promise of beauty – someday.
Over the years of relentless pursuit, goaded by countless bystanders
riding our backs, spurring us on – we have toiled; blood, sweat and tears,
We have justified our bodies, we have admitted to blame,
We have explained our struggles, we have accepted shame,
You, and me.
I am sorry that you’ve had to apologise for me,
angry at those who have appropriated blame – like mother like daughter they said,
I know how much their snide remarks have hurt,
how couching their derision in laughter they smirked,
Friends, relatives, acquaintances – but the worst of the lot,
Those who love us- but accept us not.
I am sorry you have grown up learning the same lessons you taught me,
Lessons entrenched in the memories of the daughter you were,
reinforced in the blushes of a becoming bride,
retold by a mother…mine.
Lessons rooted in fear for me,
That I would be hurt how you have been,
Lessons borrowing their urgency from dread,
Dread that time will run out for me,
Lessons finding weight in pain and regret,
Regret – like mother, like daughter…you see.
I’ve not been an easy child, refusing to believe you, refusing to heed,
I have grown up fighting, rebelling against what I was being told,
Through all my years; I’ve carried an arsenal of words,
Shielding my spirit with witty retorts,
But every so often, I reached for them too late,
I have been wounded in an assault that never abates.
I want to tell you today, Mother, that I understand,
It’s a battle you’ve fought too, for all too long,
So hear me this day, I hope my voice can be so loud,
To drown out the noise, voices that crowd,
I found the Holy Grail and smashed it to bits,
Broken down I saw they were pieces of a dark fantasy,
‘twas better smashed for I discovered the reality,
Of beauty today – not tomorrow, not someday,
Of health and happiness, and boundless pride,
Of self-love that doesn’t deride…
Today – I want to rewrite our legacy.
The lessons that have passed down from you to me,
they’d end here if only you’d believe,
the truth you stare at in the mirror,
the truth you never really see…
So, if I could gift you anything today,
Mother, I’d gift you my eyes and you would see,
That I had to fight for myself but never once for you,
For you’re beautiful, and have always been,
The woman I am sees still, what the child in me had seen,
In the slant of your nose and the luminosity of your gaze,
In every dip and curve of your body, in your effortless grace,
Beauty – forever, unqualified, not someday – but every day,
And the greatest compliment I ever heard?
Like mother, like daughter, they say.
I am a philosophy graduate who writes, photographs, cooks, travels and runs an organisation dealing with sexuality and gender; all in an effort to experience, express and contribute.