I have met many women who remind me of my mother but no man has ever reminded me of my father. I wonder what that means.
The first woman I can remember is Ms. Lipes, my sixth-grade home-room teacher. That year was the first time I had different teachers for different subjects. Ms. Lipes taught social studies and English, while Ms. McCormick taught math and science. Everyone loved the other lady because she was quirky and fun and wanted a pet skunk but Ms. Lipes was (and always will be) my favorite. I didn’t realize this then but she was the first brown teacher I ever had and I thought she was beautiful. She was young and had her hair cut in a short bob; she wore jeans and casual tees to work. She was so hip. On Friday afternoons, for the last part of the day, she would give us a free period to hang out and play board games. I don’t remember what sorts of stuff I played but I do remember Ms. Lipes playing John Mayer’s Continuum almost every week. I learned the words to “Waiting on the World to Change” that year and haven’t forgotten them since. There was one time, midway through the year, that I accidentally called Ms. Lipes mom. Luckily no one heard and she didn’t notice, but I’m sure that if she had she would have just laughed it off and smiled without making me feel embarrassed.
Then, of course, there was Mayra, my first boss. As I’ve explained before, I worked under Mayra at the circulation desk at Butler Library, Columbia’s biggest library. Here was another Dominican woman, warm and full like the one who raised me. I think it was mostly her physique, her clothes and her eagerness to stay updated on my life that reminded me of Ma, but I’m not too sure. There was something about the way Mayra told stories – long winded, focused on the details – and the pictures of her kids and granddaughter posted all around her office that felt like home. When I really think about it, Mayra and my mom are quite different. Mayra is outgoing while my mom is a little shy; she eggs on my adventures while my mom complicates them with questions. The maternal pull is still there, though, and keeps me coming back to Mayra’s office every so often.
There was Mana, my Contemporary Civilizations professor, who, when I think about it now, was more like my dad than my mom. (Everything anti-capitalist and a certain kind of radical reminds me of Pa.) At the time of the course, Mana’s short, curly hair and her willingness to give me space to think and ask questions connected her to my mother. I remember sitting at the dinner table in elementary school, working on homework and rattling off all the details of my day as my mom cooked dinner. “Uh-huh” or “oh, really?” she would say, as she turned the rice or seasoned the chicken for that night’s meal. Most times she asked a question, sometimes she didn’t. Five out of ten times in CC, I was working my way towards saying something of substance. Like my mom, Mana would take what I said and either let it sit or push it further.
I have met many women who remind me of my mother but no man has ever reminded me of my father, and I wondered what that meant. My dad may have a persona and some mystery about him that I can’t find anywhere else but my mom has a love, a way of being that makes a classroom, a job, an average moment feel familiar and warm in a heartbeat. I see and feel her love replicated everywhere – in women, like those named above, that I’ve known for a long and in women I’ve only met in passing. I have met many women who remind me of my mother and I love her all the more for it.