People are still very persistent in their efforts to separate us. They appraise me, “You got your father’s brains,” and claim me, “You have the Guyton pinkie finger.” They say, “You are your father’s daughter.” Does that mean I am not yours?
I remember when people guessed you were anyone but my mother. They asked if you were my nanny. These things were funny facts of life. They were things I miscalculated. Things that, years later, kept me apart from you like a Rabbit-Proof Fence.
Did you hear them tell me I’m lucky? That I should use my skin, my name to get by in the world? How desperately they need to see me only as the White person. How much easier for us all to agree to an Imitation of Life.
You know what they say about selling yourself out, though. You attract irreversible debt in the end. I came to realize that meant in small ways I had lost you and Lola, and all the aunties and cousins who tried to raise me Filipina but let me drift to the tide of what is easiest. We fell apart to what “makes sense.”
But that was during the pressures of child rearing–one of the few times culture feels real. Now, in necessary moments, you and I can gesture from a distance to each other: “Really, though, what in this world makes sense?”
You are my Filipina mother, but I am White.
You are my Filipina mother, so I am not White.
You are my Filipina mother, who herself wonders what that means. This, I guess, is what more truly makes you my mother. We are growing always alongside one another into related questions.
Your Mango Baby
Imitation of Life. (1959). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052918/
Rabbit-Proof Fence. (2002). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252444/