Throughout my life I’ve experienced two types of love. There’s the love you get from friends and the people you meet. It’s the type of love you can speak about and describe your feelings with words and actions. It’s a beautiful feeling created just by you and the other person. A bond that just you two share, that only you two know about. It’s a love that consists of random “i love you” texts and “text me when you get home” reminders when they’re leaving your place. It’s a happy birthday Snapchat post and a comment on every one of their Instagram posts. It’s a check-in text or a four-hour-long Facetime call. It’s non-stop conversations at the library when you both have an organic chemistry exam the next day. This type of love is beautiful and fulfilling, and it’s enough to get you by.
But then there’s the second type of love. The love you don’t realize until you’re 19 years old sitting in your dark bedroom alone on a Tuesday night, or in a random conversation with your roommates all talking about your futures. It’s a love I’ve been lucky enough to experience from the very minute I was born, only getting stronger every day. It’s the love I’ve realized my mother holds for me. But it’s more than motherly love. Describing it as such reduces the love to something that is expected from every mother, when my mother’s love surpasses the bare minimum a mother should hold. It puts a box around her love, labeling it, defining it as something able to be defined. It’s not motherly love, it’s stronger and deeper. It’s emotional, healing, curing, adoring and warm. It’s a deadly love. A heartbreaking love and a devastating one.
My parents were alone when they came to the U.S. It was a time my mother described as filled with curiosity and excitement, but one I know was masked by the extreme feeling of fear and loneliness from navigating a country by themselves with no family. My mother kept these feelings secret so I would never worry or feel bad for her. And although she tries to hide it, I know that I’m one of the only reasons she has not gone back to India to be surrounded by her mother and her sisters, the people she hasn’t been able to see for longer than two and a half months at a time in over 25 years.
Growing up, my mother and I had a rocky relationship. It was one filled with accusations, anger and arguments that turned into yelling matches over simple misunderstandings. It was one filled with resentment stemming from my willful ignorance for my mother’s situation and spiteful words on my end for no legitimate reason. These were all actions that would normally push the people that love you away, something I have consistently done for reasons I don’t understand, but she never budged. With everything she’s endured both from me and the situation, her love for me only grew deeper. Her love for her kids is the strongest love I’ve ever felt.
Her love is so powerful that it can be felt miles and miles away. I feel it when I come home after a hard week, when my mother immediately senses something is wrong when no one else could. I feel it when she texts me to remind me to take my vitamins every night. I feel it when I realize how upset she was that I didn’t text her that week, and when I found out she keeps my room door closed every time I leave for college because it pains her to go in it from how much she misses me. I felt it when she hugged me the one night I was at my lowest, immediately sending me into a melting puddle of tears on her lap. When she stayed up that entire night comforting me without a single complaint. When she spent every second of her deserved winter break from work searching the depths of the internet on ways to help me. When she begged for appointments with fully booked professionals for me.
I know she would give up her life for me; my mother’s love is a deadly love. A love that caused her to pick her career as a teacher to be closer to me in school, when I know that was not the job she dreamed of as a child. A love that led her to stay in the U.S. for my brother and me instead of being with her family, with whom she grew up tied to at the hip. A love that forced her to stay with her mother for only a month after her father died, since I couldn’t take any more days off of school. A love that made her life now revolve around being a mother and no longer herself. Her time is spent cooking for us, driving us around and working to be able to support us.
It’s a heartbreaking love, one that hides her tears in the bathroom, so I don’t see them. A love that lies to us as she pretends she is okay. A love that cries more than I do if she thinks I’m upset. A love that gives even though she gets nothing in return. A love that ignores her wounds to love as hard as she does. And it’s a devastating love knowing that I created a few of those wounds, even though she’ll read this and deny it. And it’s devastating in every sense how this has not changed how deeply she loves me.
When reflecting on what kind of person I hope to be, I’ve realized I want to be like my mother. My mother gave up everything for me and I can confidently say she would continue to do so. No matter what I do, and what I have put her through, I know she’d give everything up in a heartbeat for me. And that is something that took me far too long to appreciate. It is something that I will forever be grateful for and if I were to take one thing from her, it would be how strongly she loves. I can only hope that I can love even a fraction of how passionately she does.
So, thank you Amma, for teaching me how to love and how truly beautiful love can actually be.
MiC Columnist Roshni Mohan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.