If pop culture and pop-psych is to be believed, men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and every last one of our issues can be traced back to our mothers. As one of the very first relationships everyone experiences, it’s understandable why mothers hold such a sway over one’s concept of themselves, especially if that mother-child relationship has been fractured.
That type of strained relationship was of special interest to Tiffany “Sage Ma’at” Hall, author of Letters to Our Mothers. “Through observation, interviews, and conversations, I have learned that many of us struggle with communicating with our mothers and our mothers struggle to communicate with us,” Hall tells mater mea. “It is my intention to bring light to this in an effort to heal all of our mothers—the mothers of today are birthing and guiding the mothers of tomorrow just as the mothers of yesterday.”
The slim book offers guidance to help navigate that seemingly treacherous path to forgiveness, and also includes letters daughters have written to their mothers to help them express and process their complicated feelings.
“As a community we struggle with many challenges that we have refused to face, until now,” Hall says. “We may get a little uncomfortable but if our ancestors can survive the middle passage, we can overcome anything. It’s time to get to the root. It’s time to talk a new talk.”
Hall shares one of those letters with us:
I’m sorry it’s taken me over 30 years to write. I’m not good with expressing emotions, and I keep my feelings deep inside. It’s time I let the girl crying inside be heard.
The doctors said it’s schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorder. What did it mean for me? Of course, as a child, I didn’t give a damn about the diagnosis. What mattered most is that it took you from me when I was only 4 years old, and I want you back. I had a hard time growing up without you. I’ve always felt empty and less whole, because you couldn’t be in my life like a mother should. I thank God for my grandmothers and aunts who helped along the way, but no one can replace a nurturing mother’s love and affection. It seems everywhere I looked I saw mothers and their daughters. At least, it felt that way to me. I was missing out on something that was untouchable.
It’s not your fault that…
You weren’t there to teach me how to tie my shoelaces. You weren’t there to prepare breakfast and lunch before I went to school. You weren’t there waiting for me when I got home. You weren’t there to listen to how my day went. You weren’t there to listen to me say ABCs or count 123s. You weren’t there to help me with my homework. You weren’t there to cook dinner and let me help you cook. You weren’t there to comfort me when I had cramps from my period. You weren’t there to tuck me in at night. You weren’t there to read me a book. You weren’t there to give your opinion on important decisions I had to make. You weren’t there to take me to the park or the movies. You weren’t there to tell me you love me every day. You weren’t there to give me lots of hugs and kisses. You weren’t there to encourage me. You weren’t there to listen to my problems, big or small. You weren’t there for parent/teacher meetings, award ceremonies, track meets, or even my high-school graduation. It’s no one’s fault that you couldn’t be there.
What you did do from afar is love Junior and me more than anything. I know that no one can love us more than you do. Now that I’m older, we have gotten closer, but that emptiness still remains because I feel like you will never know me the way you should and vice versa. Although the roles are reversed and I take care of you—often times making me feel like mother—I’m so thankful to have you in my life. You tell me all the time that you’re so proud of me. You thank God for me and for allowing you to birth me into this world. Well, I want to thank you for being the motivation I needed to overcome all obstacles, because all of my accomplishments were for you. I had to do what I had to do, so I could take care of mama.
I was always looking at other mother and daughter pairs and wishing/dreaming of what life would be like had you not gotten sick. I think life would have been easier. With your beauty and brains, you would have become the actress that you aspired to be. You would have made lots of money. You would have spoiled Junior and me rotten. How do I know that? You ask us all the time if we need some money when you don’t have the money to give us. I know you would give us your last. I wonder what type of person I would be. Would I have made the accomplishments I’ve made so far? Would I be the introvert that I am today, or would I be more outgoing? Would I have such a hard time expressing my emotions? Would I be less afraid to have my own child if I would have had you to show me how to be a great mother?
You don’t know this, but you inspire me every day. In spite of everything you’ve been through, you’re always so happy. I don’t know how you do it, but I admire you so much for it. I remember this about you when the world starts to get me down, and it helps me get through anything.
I could be bitter about you getting sick, but I’m not. It was God’s plan, and it has helped to make me the strong woman I am today. I will never stop praying for a miracle that you overcome the illness.
Excerpt from Letters to Our Mothers by Tiffany “Sage Ma’at” Hall