2023 Margaret Sterling Memorial Award Winner
I am of my mother, my mother is of me.
I am my mother’s eyes, deep turquoise, surrounded by deep orange, that I am not of. I am one uneven, jagged half of my mother, though I sometimes question which elements culminated into my half, if any of her goodness found its way into me at all.
I am of her most emotional self, her unbreakable love, her seething anger, her unconditional care.
I am my mother’s past, attached. I am also her present, and her future, but for these I am linked by bonds that extend beyond the physicality of a human, and of a woman, of this woman.
I was of my mother before I was of myself. I lurked in her maybes, vanished in her resolute dismissal of my existence, shimmered in the realm of her possibilities, hinging somewhere in between attempt and accident.
I was cultivated, my mother’s nurturing: a kiss upon my cheek and a stroke down the curvature of my neck. A recoil, a turn away, a necessary press against her, a burrow into her chest.
Somewhere deep inside me rests my mother’s hopes and dreams, her longing for autonomy, self-assured independence, happiness… desire pressed into my heart with the experience of decades, for herself, for her daughter.
I am my mother’s pain, but, in this case, she is my pain as well. I am the hurt of a broken promise, the bitterness of undervalued care, the sorrow of loss. The desperation for freedom, for inner peace. My mother is the ache of slow degradation, nearly ever-present suffering, a vicarious statue against an unimaginable wall, spanning miles and years, with crumbling stone and laced with traps that can pull you under before you realize the ground is shaking.
We are both a lack of understanding, specks in a whirlwind, flung off separate cliffs of the same stature with no notice, forced into goodbyes and obligations, clawing our way to peace.
I am formed around my mother’s love, buried deep within my ribcage, carried constantly, the first seed for my internal garden. My bruised veins are laced with my mother’s protection, alongside traces of the unadulterated joy at the discovery of my existence.
I am of my mother and my mother is of me because without each other, neither would exist.
Our paths, a soft stable dirt, gentle and trustworthy, another, a cracked cobblestone, flowers emerging are forever woven together, defying time, winding, separating, but tied together always.
Bella Whitley is a writer from Arizona who loves animals and the environment. She lives in Vail, AZ, but is hoping to eventually travel the world and live in the Pacific Northwest. She is an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, studying English and Creative Writing.