Today is also #NationalSisterDay. Thank you to my unbiological sister, Shani. She’s the diamond to my sapphire. We have different parents only because no one would have been able to handle us growing up. Especially since we turned out to be awesome, loyal, bad ass chicks with the world’s best sense of humor. I always feel immensely privileged to have you in my life. XOXO #BestFriends #Sisters #Sestras #Hermanas #Sorellas
Reading this, this morning made me feel as if someone from up above sent it to me.
My mother was MY best friend until she passed away. I am certain people thought our closeness was odd at times, but I didn’t care.
Her co-workers were jealous of her because I was always there for her and their own daughters were either too young or had already moved across the country, or had left the country entirely. I have no idea if their leaving had anything to do with their mother, her parenting, etc. I cannot creep into the minds of others.
I would often hear them say “Wow! I hope if I’m ever sick, that my daughter is half as good as yours is. She’s never NOT here for you.” It was very twisted jealousy that physically made me ill. Who the hell in their right mind is jealous of someone who is disabled, yet shows up for work every single day? I finally decided that it was their problem, not mine, and certainly not my mother’s.
My Mom never saw fit to call an ex-boyfriend or fight my battles for me, but she is absolutely the voice in my head that encourages me to be my authentic self. A huge part of me was buried with her. I will never not miss that woman. She wasn’t perfect, no one is, but she WAS the best Mom on the planet.
If you’re lucky enough to have a close relationship with your mother, give her a call today or a hug and let her know she’s important to you. Life is short.
I have always had an immense connection with my friends, especially my best friends. We do outgrow friendships and relationships at times, but the very best friends grow with you. I am immensely blessed in this department. There is much to be said for being a loyal friend who will always have someone’s back.
First friend; best friend.
The reason I am who I am.
The person who encouraged me never to follow, but always to lead.
Guide-post. Lighthouse. Anchor.
Part angel, part saint.
The best listener.
Could always see the best in me, even when I didn’t believe there was any.
Teacher of so much.
Giver of books, music, art, culture, and life.
Laughter ’til we cried.
Taught me, in part, how to be a mother with a very simple gift.
Saw my talents clearer than anyone else.
Hated it when friends disappointed, lied, and hurt me. Enraged when men did the same.
Was always in awe of my strength.
Was not afraid to lean on me and allow me to be strong when she was not.
My first audience.
Lover of sunsets, rainbows, lilacs, and cats.
Honesty, Integrity, Loyalty, Love, Friendship.
You thought I was the blessing, but I know with certainty that I was blessed to have you as my mother.
You worked two jobs, took care of your children, and never once looked back. That is immense heroism.
Small aspects of who you are and what you mean to me.
I learned from my mother, but I also taught her in kind. Our relationship was one of kindred spirits. I’m strong and fierce because she was not able to be that kind of woman, having been raised differently. She encouraged my voice because she often felt she did not have one that others would listen to. She is the reason I am a supremely confident writer.
Days like today are very hard. They are made easier when one can honor their loved one, in their own attempt to heal. Truth be told, I don’t think one can ever repair the hole inside my heart at such a devastating loss, but I’m trying.
“Serenity is yours.
When chaos looms seek the sweet
Surrender of simplicity.
Gaze above at the glassy sky,
Feel each blade of green
Beneath your feet,
Listen to the sound of faith
Like a reed flute playing
Inside your chest.
Stand in witness of
Your true nature.
Remember the compassion
Of the lover’s eyes,
The calm wisdom of
The elder’s voice.
Go within. Be at rest without.
Fall to your knees in gratitude.
You have all you need.
Turn from the riot of distraction.
Let it roll over and beyond you.
Serenity is yours.
It lives always within your reach.”
-Ching Qu Lam
copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Coming Out of The Ancestral “Closet”
I find it more than a little appalling that in 2014, I am still being asked “What are you?” Not “What religion are you?” or your average, inappropriate social questions, which, by my standards, are still rude. No, it’s always been “What ARE you?”, with such profound emphasis, as if I am my own species. It’s become ridiculous, and as we’ve established, I am not a patient woman.
Growing up in New York City; a small, fair skinned, dark blue eyed, dark haired child, I was utterly adorable. I have pictures to prove it. My peaches & cream complected, blonde, hazel eyed mother was very clear in my genes, but so was my olive skinned, raven haired, dark brown eyed father. I was clearly a genetic mix of my parents and maternal Grandparents. For years, my eyes had that perfect Asian up-tilt, a gift of my Tribal Siberian and Mongolian ancestry, something that I now enhance with carefully applied eyeliner when I have the patience to do so. I was about six years old when they changed in color from dark blue to hazel. It normally doesn’t take such a long period of time for a child’s eye color to change.
Where am I going with this? Well, I will tell you. I’ve known for about 8 years now that I am indeed part Latina. I have absolutely no reason to hide it or not discuss it if it comes up in conversation, especially now that Spain and Portugal are allowing Jews to return for citizenship. I have to say, I was very sorely tempted to pack my bags and leave.
Growing up, everyone assumed I was either 100% Puerto Rican or 100% Italian. I am neither. In fact, I’m not 100% anything. I am so blended, I should have my own flag. My Latina roots come from Spain (Zaragoza) and Argentina (Buenos Aires).
Several months ago, while filling out some forms I checked the Caucasian box, as I’ve done my entire life, and followed up with Hispanic on the second portion of the form. It is truly the first time I’d ever done it, but I simply felt like not putting it down was to lie, and it bothered me, so I checked the box proudly. The woman handling the paperwork looked at me immediately and said “You’re Sephardic?!”, with such utter disbelief as she looked at the color of my skin and eyes, that I glanced up briefly from filling out the forms and said “I am Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Russian Siberian, and Jewish Asian.” In truth, that’s not even the half of it, but it was short and to the point. I didn’t owe her an explanation of my lineage, but I’d be damned if I was going to be treated any differently.
Really, why the hell does anyone give a shit?! Why did she? I later found out that as an immigrant to this country, she did not want anyone knowing she was Sephardic. I was slightly astounded, but anyone who is at an age where their Grandparents or parents may have died during the Holocaust is probably still hiding what they are. Having been born here, I suppose I do not feel the need to hide. I’ve never felt the need to do so, not ancestrally or religiously.
People tend to forget that Latinas come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are blonde and blue eyed, some are more like me, and others are dark haired, dark eyed, and always look naturally tan. I cannot tan to save my life, and since I detest sun damage and the sun on a whole, I religiously wear sun protection. Some of us speak Ladino, Yiddish, Spanish, Portuguese, or older versions of various languages. Some of my cousins, also Sephardic, speak French (My brother does, I do not.). I grew up in a bilingual home, my closest family friends did too, and they all spoke Spanish. I spent years studying other languages, and am now teaching my brother Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Spanish. I understand languages I don’t speak, but I base that on the fact that some of them are incredibly similar. I have been trying to learn Swedish for a couple of years now. Not for any other reason than I think it’s beautiful when spoken. Welsh is next on my list.
I’m a great observer of others, but I try very hard not to judge people based on race or religion. Everyone is an individual. If you treat me like shit, I am not going to judge your ethnic background for that, just you. If you treat me well, I’m not going to automatically assume that everyone like you will show the same kindness and respect.
I have friends from all walks of life, and I accept and respect them for their individuality. I don’t care where a person is from, so long as we treat each other with respect and courtesy. Most of the people in my life who are closest to me are not American born or American citizens (though I can now say for a fact that more are). Two of my best friends are Israeli and German. My boyfriend holds dual citizenship. He is Welsh born, returns to Wales several times a year to visit older relatives, but is not an American citizen. His parents and siblings are not American citizens either, but they’re some of the loveliest people, and to me, that’s all that matters.
I have a friend who, for damn near our entire friendship, would openly declare herself Hispanic “From SPAIN!”, she’d tell people loudly. She’s also part Cherokee, which shows. Honestly, it doesn’t matter, but now that our friendship has declined so badly, I have noticed more and more that she is embracing the fact that her ancestry is actually Mexican. It’s always been pretty evident to me, but would I ever have said a word to her about it? No. That’s disrespectful. That’s like catching me on a dumb day and then pointing out that I have some Polish ancestry. It’s rude and it’s not something you say or do.
I think what bothered me the most about her saying it so often is that people would ask her if she was Hawaiian, saying that she looked “exotic”, and I’d then think of Stefanie, one of my best friends, who is Native Hawaiian. There’s a definite difference, not just in looks, but in so much more. She is not simply born and raised there, you can see her Hawaiian and Japanese ancestry in her hair, eyes, skin, and beauty. It shines like a beacon. Her Italian mother, we often joke, barely got a gene in. Between her and her siblings, she is the one who most looks like her father’s side of the family. For the previously aforementioned friend, ancestry and honoring it is clearly a big issue, so I never, ever tried to make her feel uncomfortable, nor did I ever press her on it. I feel it is something to honor and show respect, not hide from or deny, but that’s me and my otherworldly view since I’m still being asked “What ARE you?”
The next time someone says that to me, I might very well declare myself a vampire, purchase a really cool pair of colored contacts from Italy, and not say a word to anyone ever again, until the sun sets. Stupid questions deserve stupid answers, do they not?
So, this is me. Part Latina. Owning it, not ashamed, remembering to use my Spanish instead of forgetting that I can speak it, completely unconcerned if my honoring it bothers someone else. It’s my genes, my ancestry, and if you’ve taken issue with it, fuck off!
“Coming Out Of The Ancestral ‘Closet’” is copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC., and was originally published on July 7th, 2014. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.