LESSONS FROM THE PAST

Much of my childhood memories are a blur. Most of the time, I put them together like puzzle pieces but sometimes, I have memories that are so colorful. These vivid recollections often times are moments that I look back at now, and I understand them so much better. Not only do I find myself understanding certain situations better, but I’ve found myself understanding my mother better and the trajectory of what I want my life to be. 

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, my mother was a scholar in her country. She had already finished her degrees when she decided to move to the United States with her sister. She didn’t speak any English and basically had to start all over, but this is America right?

I spent a lot of my elementary after-school days at my babysitter’s house. Amparo, was her name, one of my many mother figures. She’d cook for me, make sure I did my homework, and sometimes I’d hear her on the phone with my mom “No te preocupes, ella está bien. Hasta cuando necesite me la dejas.” “Don’t worry, she is fine. She can stay here as long as she needs to.” It’s true what they say, it takes a village.

She worked her ass off and went to school at night. At ten years old, I was so proud to say my mom was in college. She was kind of cool to me. I watched her complete degree after degree, even after knowing that she had already done all of this in her country. Now, a woman with multiple pillars of education, with multiple businesses, and a tongue that knows the American Dream, she will never forget the taste of her roots. She just never gives up. Ever. 

My mother and I are not the same. I have many moments where giving up just seems easier. Many moments I have given up completely. But more times than not, all these memories come back to me and while we may not have the same path, the same strength, and determination, I remember that I  can't ever give up. 

There was strength, directness, and purpose behind conversations about excelling. But when it came to matters of the heart, we spoke about it with ease. Honestly, she’s just a big softy. 

I was nineteen, home from school for the summer. I was sitting cross-legged on a chair in the kitchen while the drums from the merengue wee vibrating through the floors onto my toes. My mom had a brush and a blowdryer to my hair. Burning my scalp in each section, “Ay sorry mi hija, tate quieta” “I’m so sorry baby, stop moving so much.” I sucked my teeth, and we continued to gossip about cousins and aunts and the boy I had been spending time with that summer. 

The next words struggled to fall out of my mother’s mouth. I sat there trying to guess what was coming next: “have you been... intimate with him?” Intimate. I find that word to be so private and packed with feeling. It’s meant to feel delicate but to me, it feels heavy. I couldn’t help but laugh. I confidently said yes and she took a pause and then the next words that tiptoed out of her were words that really stuck with me: “Well, are you in love with him?” And I just thought, why would I be? Sex was something that she held as treasure, and here I was, giving my “gift” to someone I didn’t even love! *Cries in Spanish*

The relationship between love and sex can be tricky and complicated. We all know that they have a funny way of being mixy. Damn those feels... But when I’ve found myself in battles with my heart, this conversation plays in my head. While we may not agree on everything, almost ever, the worry in my mother’s voice and in her heart for mine, has taught me to hold me, close to me. 

My mother walks through life being the best version of herself she can be every single day. And now at twenty eight, I’m consciously referencing my memories with her, using them like therapy, trying to trust that I’ve always known the answer. Intuition is strong and for the most part, I think as women, we try really hard to trust it. And in a world like today, these are life lessons that my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother and generations before that, have prepared for me and all of the generations to come.

Cam Valdez

is a TGM Contributor from NYC you can find wrapped in a blanket burrito, show binging all winter, pretending to be a Latina Carrie Bradshaw, and probably the only person alive racing to the news stands for new magazines.