It’s Her 71st Birthday

So my mother looked at a one-week-old me, then decided to take me as one of hers. I might have smiled at her or so I’d like to think, but most probably I would’ve been crying restlessly. Just like any newborns would within the first few days of their lives.

That was a while ago, and I spent the next 17 years under her wing, with 15 of those years sleeping in the same bed as her (It was just a single mattress, but I was even smaller than now, so it was a snuggly fit). We were tight, figuratively and literally. My education was her number one priority so she would take me to every single after-school class she could find including the piano lessons (My hands owe most of their dexterity from her). She sewed uncountable pieces of my clothing, especially pants. They were all too long for my rather short … hmm cute legs, shall we say? She was methodical in all of the things she did, almost rigid even. I can still picture how she would peel a mango from the beginning until the end, when she would chew on the seed, making sure nothing was wasted.

Today is her 71st birthday. Rather than celebrating it with a party though, my brothers and sisters visited her ashes instead. And where am I now? I’m in another country, as always. I was in another country when she passed last year, just 3 months after her 70th. It was a sudden, brutal heart attack. I’ve been in another country since I was 17. I’ve been away for a while, and so we grew apart real fast. I blamed my angry teenage-self for that, or my youthful ignorance for not knowing what it took to maintain a relationship — what a shame.

I’ve always known that I was adopted. I grew up thinking that when it’s my time to have a kid, I’d have no problem adopting, exactly *because* I was adopted.

The time to have a kid has come, and yet I can’t see myself adopting one. My left brain can come up with 100 reasons why I should be comfortable with adoption. Your mileage may vary, but I’m just telling you what I’m feeling now. Every day I am more and more grateful that my mother chose to raise me under the same roof as her other children. When my biological mother died, no one else took me, and I can’t imagine how I would’ve turned out if she had not.

I used to be jealous of people who can remember their childhood. Then I went to therapy, and now I can pick up on things I do daily that I can attribute to my mother’s influence. Because of her, I leave my plates super clean after I eat. Because of her, I know how to be independent (she was a single mother who raised 3 kids). Because of her, I never hesitate to buy books (she said books belong to a different budget than other items you shop). I am who I am because of her.

Happy birthday mum, we miss you.

Author: Martha Winata

Co-founder of Get Sandwich. An insider trading detective turns public speaking coach. A flawed speaker who has given up on perfection but instead obsessed with progress. I enjoy private conversations as much as public ones. I do a lot of prep and less spontaneity, but that's just what works for me.

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