The Root of My Mother

The Root of My Mother

Kate Jane Villanueva
Media Staff

My mother was born with a green ribbon wrapped
Around her left thumb
Her lucky green thumb,
My grandmother always called it

The village rejoiced
When my mother first sprouted
They named her 

Chinese Characters for Jasmine's mom's Chinese Name, han shi hua

(Han Shi Hua)
The best of the whole world 
Destined to reap an abundant harvest
A poor village’s saving grace

When my mother was still just a daughter
She developed 2 hobbies—
Tending to bad seeds
And fidgeting with the small tight bow
Perched perfectly on her knuckle

Almost two decades ago,
She planted a curious and resilient seed
Carefully laid it to rest in a soft bed of soil
Nursed it with the early morning dew
The air wet with promise

She planted herself next to her seedling
Laid by it day and night
Pulled the cool moonlight over her shoulders like a blanket
Nestled her head into the soil
Her roots entangling with those of her seed
Her body begged return to this kind mother

She showered her sapling with song
Prayed her lullabies would soak down through its roots
But sometimes she drowned it instead
The wrong love at the wrong time
Have patience, it will grow at its own rhythm
My grandmother would say

But my mother
Is my grandmother’s daughter
Couldn’t help but poke and prod
Anxiously picking at her ribbon
The flower had to be beautiful
Her flower
Her legacy
She would make her village—her mother—proud

As her flower grew
She picked up a new hobby
Pruning imperfect leaves and misshapen branches despite painful protest
Because sometimes growing brings pain
Couldn’t her seedling just understand that?
But other times—She regrets chopping 
too much from the left branch She misses 
her seedling’s budding imagination and flowering recklessness

When I first sprouted almost two decades ago,
My mother named me Jasmine


Chinese Characters for Jasmine's Chinese Name, Wang Jing Ming

(Wang Jing Ming)
At the same time
She says one name did not come before the other
I’m not sure if I believe her

For me and my mother
There is no first either
We came to be
My mother and her daughter
At the same time

I tell her I wish I knew her before me
She tells me she did not exist before me
But I hope there was a her before me
Maybe she was kinder, happier,
                                                  more like me

My mother told me that my name means
Tranquil grandeur, joyful serenity, humble elegance 
She hoped I would live a peaceful life
A life better than hers
But I grew up hating my name,
Has anyone ever lived a peaceful life?
I think she hated my name too
Her favorite flowers were always magnolias

I wonder if my mother ever resents her green thumb
Resents that suffocating ribbon
Sometimes I do mine—
That nagging ribbon wound around my throat
That’s caught in my hair
That chokes back my words 

I wonder too if my mother resents her girlhood
Spent surviving on dandelion weeds
Devoured so many that she became one
Ingesting their resilience

Almost two decades ago,
My mother planted another seed 
within me—A dandelion seed
Ripped it from her own body
Stuffed it into the bed of my heart

When I was only five or six
I inherited a hobby from my mother
Spent hot summer days with her outside tearing out
Dandelion weeds
Nothing is born beautiful, you must make them so
My mother would say
But my ribbon is not bound around my thumb
And my hands are rotten
And when the garden weeds were picked clean
I plucked at the weeds overgrown in my heart

But the garden of my mind is still invaded with pieces of my mother
Wisps of her billow through my bloodstream
She is always sprouting within me

I trip over the roots of my mother

My mother grew up singing to buried seeds
Thirsting for the fruits of her labor
If she had known that she had planted the wrong seed
Grown another dandelion instead of the
Graceful Jasmine or blossoming Magnolia she always dreamed of
Would she have pruned me earlier?

My mother and I kneel among the weeds
                                    Pulling at our roots

But what if I didn’t 
What if I let them grow, bloom, flourish so that 
One day I may dance barefoot in this overgrown garden
Of her mind and
Of mine