Co-existing

(by CJ Howard)


I don’t know if my mum would like me if she met me now. If we were strangers, passing on a street, what would she think of my hair, my nose, my clothes, my legs, the way I sat at my computer? I wonder if she would still make the comments she says out loud.


The sad thing is I don’t think I will ever fully understand what she is thinking. And it’s strange, I spend every summer with someone almost 40 years my senior, who has lived a whole life before I entered it. She was robbed of that, and it is my fault. She had a life, and then I was born and she became a mother. That is the fate of every daughter. Our mother looks at us and has to hate us a little because she knows what we are about to experience. A life full of freedom that was stolen from her by a child. And the child is a girl. Pity.


Moving to university has been hard on both of us. I am an independent person. I think my mum secretly hates that about me. I think she wishes I needed her more.


It was worse because I was a daddy’s girl for years and years. He could do no wrong, and my mother was cruel and cold. Now I see they are both flawed and lovable, but she didn’t get to be a mum for very long. I turned around to face her, and my shoes were already tied, lunch already made. She didn’t know what to do other than point out they weren’t a nice color and that brown bread is better for you.


And now I’m gone, and I miss how organized she was, but I can never tell her that. I also can’t tell her that I prefer my spaghetti Bolognaise to hers, even when we work from the same recipe.


I can feel her hand on my shoulder. It rests, not gripping but heavy. It would be easier to throw it aside and run for it, but it’s not like I don’t want her in my life. I just need a friend more than a mother.


Please don’t tell me not to spill food down my shirt, and when I do, please see that it’s funny and inconsequential and that I’m a little clumsy and I didn’t mean it. Please believe me when I tell you my shoes aren’t dirty. Please come to my 19th birthday and understand that I am no longer a reflection of you. I am a reflection of myself. Please stop holding me by the waist while I try to step forward into myself. Please trust that when you do let me go, my hand will be out for you to hold.


I can taste it when you are angry. The way you sigh, put a glass down, pull out of the drive, hold the steering wheel. The first thing you said when you walked into my university room was that I hadn’t hoovered, and suddenly I’m 12 again, and I’m really sorry I completely forgot and just didn’t have time.


But when it is wet and cold and my bags are heavy and I feel tired and delicate, I want my mum. I want her to pick me up in the car I now drive, bags in the back, radio humming gently. Is that selfish of me? Do I get to pick and choose? Do you?


I don’t write many poems, but there are two about you. The first one is better, so I’ll share it:


Co-existing


I love hanging out with you

You make me self-conscious

I look up to you

You struggle to see my priorities


I miss being in a house with

You put the shopping down and now

I think you are mad at me

And some friends are going out If that’s okay with

You guilt-trip me

And that makes me feel like shit


Sorry


You still cook me my favorite food even though

I can do it for myself now

You make it better than me

I don’t tell you that

You make me nervous in the kitchen

I feel like you always have to correct me

Your finger in my pies


I want to go back to being

Your little girl

Could we do that?

Could I be both your daughter and my adult?

Do they get to co-exist?

I would love for you to meet her

---

CJ Howard is a student at Warwick University in England. She can be found on Facebook.

Spaghetti Bolognese That I Prefer to Yours


4 - 6 oz. pasta

drizzle of olive oil

1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

handful of mushrooms, sliced

15 oz. can lentils

15 oz. can chopped tomatoes

1 vegetable stock cube

1 T. tomato paste

thyme, basil, rosemary, oregano, or any herb/spice you like

3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook pasta al dente.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and sauté peppers until somewhat softened.

Add onions, and sauté until golden brown.

Add mushrooms, and sauté for several minutes.

Strain but don’t rinse the lentils, and add along with chopped tomatoes.

Add vegetable stock cube, tomato paste, and spices to taste.

Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

Slowly add the grated cheddar cheese.

Drain pasta and toss with sauce.

Serves 2.