My brother, Paul, and I have two moms.
Our biological mother is a Guatemalan immigrant. At about the age of 5 our mom and dad divorced. Shortly after, she moved to Canada with her new husband. She kidnapped Paul and me and took us with her; in the end, she lost all custody rights. The kidnapping (which wasn’t as bad as it sounds) would make me afraid of her. I was afraid she would try again to take me away from my friends. She would start a new family. For various complicated reasons, contact between us was sparse. I can’t imagine her pain at not being able to see her two sons.
Mother’s Day was always weird for me as a young boy. We would get up on the stand at church with the other primary children and sing a primary song about our mothers. Mine was absent. As an adult, I tried to resume contact with her, but ultimately it didn’t go well. I don’t call her mom, but I call her by her first name, Haydee. And only recently did I finally respond to her two daughters’ (my two sisters’) ongoing reaching out to me. They have been a blessing. This summer Paul and I will be going to our youngest sister, Quetzal’s, marriage to her soon to be wife. I imagine that Haydee won’t be there. She has decided to put the Church between herself and her two gay daughters. Mormonism and its teachings of eternal families has demanded that I be with my sister. Funny how the Church has two different effects on two different people. It can bring pain and love.
My father remarried a second time -this time to a woman from Mexico, Yolanda. Yolanda had a daughter and a son around Paul’s and my age. It was a brief marriage. In my mind it only lasted a few weeks.
My father remarried a third time. Chareine was a woman who grew up in the small Idaho town of Firth. Paul and I didn’t like the idea of our dad marrying. Moms seemed to always take away the fun; at least that was what our friends would tell us. Our home, without a woman present, was chaotic but lots of fun. Chareine, who I call mom, became “mom.” She earned it. We had some rough spots when she first came to our
home. I remember, for example, our mom not thinking it was okay for her two brown Californian step-sons to wear shorts and tank-tops to school. She would eventually lose that battle. When she married my dad we were living in East San Jose. Haydee’s family – my tías, tíos, primos still lived in the area and some attending the same chapel as we did. I don’t think my mom was prepared for the treatment she would receive from my Latino family – she was moving in on their sister’s rightful place as our mother.
Much of what is good in my life has come from her. Any amount of kindness I have is a direct result of her parenting. My dad, who is now dead, could be mean and manipulative. She would often be a buffer between dad and me. I remember on more than one occasion me telling my mom about a bad grade I got from school and she not telling my father, with my promise that the grade would go up. Much of my love for the LDS Church and the Gospel of Jesus comes from my mom. I have three siblings from my dad’s third marriage – Bryant, Jonathan, and Maygan. They have brought goodness to my life.
Ultimately I would damage my relationship with my mother. As my relationship with the LDS Church began to change, I didn’t always act my best. I had no guide,who had been where I was headed, to gently tell me I was perhaps acting out in a way that wasn’t best for maintaining a healthy relationship with my mom. I think I confused her. I think mom is still a little confused by me. She still loves me.
So here I am. An almost 43 year old man with a Guatemalan mother, with whom I have no relationship. I speak
Spanish only because I served an LDS Spanish speaking mission – funny how my church, which has brought confusion and pain into my life has also brought that beauty. I was raised by two white parents. At times I see myself as Latino. At times I see myself as white. At times I see myself as bi-racial. Usually, I am just confused.
Often times I feel like an imposter – brown skinned; Latino nose; speak Spanish better than many U.S.-born Latino Americans – yet not good enough for some; making sure my daughters know the stories of their Guatemalan pioneer heritage – a story of righteous independent women who followed their conscious and followed God; my Guatemalan mother is more distant than my white mother; I was raised in white American culture; I carry an English last name. I exist in two ambiguous and confusing worlds and I am always reminded of these two worlds. Me carrying Haydee’s brown skin, carrying her dimples when I smile, carrying her dark dense Latin hair and whenever I look at my brother Paul, I am reminded that I am the child of Haydee. My Mormonism and my last name remind me I am Chareine’s son.
Now I am married to a wonderful woman. Cathy is a woman who is ferociously independent and at the same time ferociously loyal. She demands a lot from our daughters. She brings music to our home. She brings debate to our home. She brings arguments to our home. She brings yelling to our home. She brings reconciliation to our home. She brings forgiveness our home. She brings Mormon feminism to our home. She brings equality to our home. She brings intelligence to our home. She brings the importance of education to our home. She brings sacrifice to our home. She brings Heavenly Father AND Heavenly Mother to our home. She brings stability to our home.
She brings love to our home.
So when I talk about mothers, that word carries a different meaning for me that it might not carry with you.
Today I am wearing my blue guayabera to church. This is my way of acknowledging my two mothers. One brought me my Latinoness and the other my Mormonism.
Perhaps the ambiguity of my cultural and racial identity is why I cling so tightly to my religion. That identity has always been clear to me. I am and will always be Mormon.
Happy Mother’s Day.