Growing up, my mother was my superhero. She made everything look easy and offered advice along the way so that I could get things right from the get. She worked 8, sometimes more, hours on her feet at a hotel as a housekeeper, came home to cook and clean and tended to the house as if she didn’t know what being tired was. Her main priority though was to keep me and my siblings safe and to minimize her anxiety.
“No te vayas de tu casa con dos medias disparejas”, she told me one day when I lazily put on two mismatched socks, not giving it a second thought.
“Porque no?” I responded, not understanding the importance.
“Ay y si te pones mala y te tienen que llevar al hospital? Tu quieres que te vean con dos medias disparejas?” And so I grew up thinking wearing two mismatched socks was an act of rebellion.
In my family, it was a known secret that the men were able to do whatever they wanted, especially my dad, because “that’s just the way things were” and “los hombres no se pueden embarazar”, so trying to have a social life was made hard under my mother’s strict, watchful eye. I had more of an outgoing personality than my sister who was older than me and who relished staying home and I wanted nothing more as a teenager than to be “en el medio” as my mom would say. Going to parties, to clubs, to any afterschool activity where I could hang out with my friends and dance was my scene. When I started going to the “grown people” clubs (aka not teen bashes at Jimmy’s Bronx Café anymore), my mother would let me go on one condition, I was to leave by midnight as if I were some modern-day Cinderella. But to me, this little bit of freedom felt like the leash I was constantly being held back with got extended for a bit. “Mira, oyeme bien. Te voy a dejar ir pero a las media noche tu vas a estar en el tren ya, me entendiste? Te voy a llamar a las 11:45 para que comienzes a salir.” Always a woman of her word, she would blow up my Nokia cellphone at exactly 11:45 and then again at 11:50 and then again at 11:55 and then at 12 to make sure I had really left. Her sole purpose for being this way was to allow me to “sacar la energia” that I had but also get home at a reasonable hour as she wouldn’t sleep unless everyone was home, in their beds, the door locked and secure.
Although she catered to everyone, being a Dominican woman and all, having been raised in old-school DR with the old school mentality that women were the caregivers no matter what oppression they were put under, she had a rough edge to her. Not having mastered English despite being in the country for over 30 years, when she was accused of breaking a little glass doll at the 99 cents store one day, she yelled back at the store clerk (who also did not have a master handle of the English language), “Ju saw me do eet? Eh? Ju can show me on da camera? I make question to ju?!” After that incident she told me, “no te dejes cojer de pendeja en ninguna situacion, y no te quedes callada cuando tratan de hacerte daño .”
Being an adult now, my mother is still my superhero. She has taught me that like it or not, appearances matter, make sure you have clean, matched socks on at all times because you will not be admitted to the hospital otherwise (just kidding), and always, always stick up for yourself and get home at an early hour, because mothers’ worry and there are some crazy people out there.
Liana Rivas is a born and raised New Yorker, living in the same building in Inwood all of her life. Her parents migrated from Santiago, D.R. to Inwood in the 70’s and have been learning to adapt to American city life ever since. Liana has a BA in Creative Writing from City College and is an avid novel reader. She is happily married and is a dog-mom to a sassy, 3-year-old chihuahua mix.