• Tiye Naeemah Cort

Damn.

Updated: Apr 18, 2018

There was snow, freezing temperatures, and... my mom.

Growing up, I always thought that it was the most annoying thing that my mom would burst into my room unannounced. It was never for any important reason- maybe to make sure that I finally got out of bed after being told three times, to see how far along I was in getting ready, or to retrieve something from my room now turned her home office. She would usually catch me mid-dress, and I would give her a death stare until she would say "oh, sorry!" and retreat. I hated that. And now, especially after being away from home for so long, it is almost humorous when she does it. I hear her footsteps in the ceramic tiled hallway, and I can tell exactly where she is going. A brisk gait lets me know that she is in a rush, and on her way past my room to the bathroom, where she will shower then sit in front of her vanity to do her hair and makeup. Swift steps, a stop, and a slower creep to my door let me know that she is coming to my room. It is those moments- when her steps stop and she remembers that I'm home- that I now look forward to.


One morning while I was home in Boston over the winter break, when my mom thought that I was sleeping, she came into my room and kissed me on the forehead before walking out. I was a bit sick with a cold, so blame it on the NyQuil or perhaps a slight fever, but it was the best feeling ever. It made me wonder how many times I have slept while my mom came into my room, just to see me in my bed, and give me a kiss on the forehead. 


When I come home, I’m usually in my room or in the upstairs family room, and my mother has this habit of checking in on me and asking if I’m feeling ok. She's a therapist, so I always blamed her many many questions on her profession, but it’s like she has a spidey sense that tells her when I’m getting sick or I need some chocolate (it’s usually one or the other). 

Being home made me think of how much my relationship with my mother has changed over the years. I have always been a daddy's girl, so I've definitely taken my mother for granted. Over this break, while my dad was away in Guyana, my mother and I were the women of the house, and all of the trials that came with the "Bomb Cyclone" brought us even closer.


It started with the motor on the furnace deciding that it had had enough. As the house slowly grew colder because every plumber was booked due to other heat and water emergencies in the city, everyone in the house bundled up until the morning. My mom kept reassuring all of us that the house would be warm again in the morning. She apologized so many times and looked almost embarrassed that this was happening. I can't count how many times she told me "I'm sorry that you had to come home to this," during that week as if she could control the weather or the heating and plumbing systems in our 100-year-old house. I stayed warm and cozy under a heated blanket, put Arthur in a warm sweater, and we were fine. I didn't complain- what was the use? I could see the stress slowly building as my mom tried to figure everything out on her own while maintaining a brave face. Within a couple of days (yes, by this point I could see my breath) the plumber was finally able to solve the issue. We had heat in the house again, and although the washing machine and downstairs bathroom were still pretty frozen, the house was warm.


UNTIL...


I ran downstairs to the sound of what I thought was frying chicken, but it was water spewing from a pipe, that I didn't even know existed, all over the kitchen floor. I noticed that the water created a sizeable pond that spanned the parquet floor, and it was pretty deep in certain areas. I ran upstairs to wake my mother from one of her many cat naps (with our three black cats) and told her what was happening. She ran downstairs and into the basement to turn off the main. Quick thinking. I still don't even know where the main is. As we grabbed buckets and bowls to start scooping and bailing the water from the kitchen floor into buckets (because who has a water vacuum lying around?), I connected with my mother in the most unexpected way.


I was getting ready to go shopping with my friend for my NYE dress, and here I was with my mother, doing some of the hardest labor that I have done in years. My mother and I were crouched together cleaning up this mess, scooping and bailing, and just shaking our heads at the situation. She took a break to call the plumber (he had been there earlier that day, fixing the furnace), and he was on his way. I texted my brother to come home from hanging with his friends so that he could assist the plumber. We may have been standing in the middle of a flooded kitchen, but I was determined to go out that night. As the water slowly became less of a lake and more of a mess to mop and soak up with towels, the plumber arrived, assessed the situation, and said that he would be back in the morning. I ran upstairs, changed my clothes, and I was out the front door as my brother walked in.


As I shopped, I stopped thinking about the house, how cold it was, how much water we had just scooped off of the floor, or how ruined my mother thought my time back home was after a series of unfortunate events. Honestly, I didn't care about that stuff. Sure, the house was freezing and every day seemed to bring a new surprise, but I didn't blame her for that. If anything, I admired how easily she seemed to keep it together. Between calling plumbers all over the city and calling my dad in South America, she managed to figure out solutions to every problem. My mom is a crier, and I'm sure that she did, but I never saw her cry about this even though I know that she felt helpless. 


I take my mother for granted because I know that I usually tend to reach out to her when I need her the most. In this case, it was when there was water everywhere and I had no idea what to do. The day before I headed back to Austin, she accompanied me to a doctor's appointment, where I was completely comfortable with her sitting in the room as the doctor poked, prodded, and asked too many questions. It was in each of these moments that I felt the closest to my mother. The first was when I knew that she would have the answers and remain calm in the chaos. The latter was when it went without saying that I needed her to be the "concerned mother" who made the doctor's appointment and sat as moral support while I waited for the doctor to tell me what was wrong. Just like that kiss on the forehead, her presence was not only comforting but also necessary.


Although I don't think she will ever think that I call home enough, I am always excited to hear about the latest nail polish she's trying, the next vacation she's taking, or about how crazy the rest of my family is. It took memories of negative temperatures and burst pipes to get me to sit down and reflect on my winter break. It was painfully cold- frozen, actually- but I loved it. I loved the unexpected moments that I had with friends, the deep conversations that I had with my sisters, the hugs, the kisses, the drives to and from New York, and the snowy walks through my changing neighborhood. Most of all, I loved how I could always tell when my mother was about to ask me to make her a cup of tea, how she looked at me and smiled whenever I walked into her room on time and dressed for church, the way she kept sneaking in the question of whether so-and-so was my boyfriend yet (and the way she sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes whenever my response to "Where are you going?" was "... to my boyfriend's house."), and that brief moment when we both crouched on the flooded kitchen floor, met eyes, sighed, and let out a little chuckle that said nothing more than "damn."

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