The root of my love for cooking called me at 6 years old. I stood staring at my mom crying as she hung up the phone. My dad, may he rest in peace, who normally had one facial expression, even looked concerned. As a 6 year old I’m thinking what’s going on? Why is she crying? My sisters were crying too. I hope nothing happened to Dot I thought; that’s what we called our grandmother. My mom turns to me and asks me to come to the living room, they have something to tell me. The living room I thought! Now anyone who grew up pre-90’s know the living room is off limits. That’s the one room you keep intact in case company comes, so I knew this was important.
She sits me down and begins to tell me how much she and dad loves me and how I am theirs no matter what. She proceeds to tell me nothing will change and they will protect me. As a child this is all so very confusing to me. I am sitting there with my Barbie thinking, umm…okay…. Ken’s waiting by the pool, can we get this over with? Umm…yes, I had the dream house with the pool. I was the baby; I had the Barbie McDonald’s too.
She tells me she’s my mother, but she didn’t give birth to me. “I loved you the moment I saw you Nieta,” she says. She explained that my mother had me very young and couldn’t take care of me so she asked my parents to do so. She continues to say they have been my parents since I was 5 weeks old and that was her on the phone asking them to tell me about her. She explained this as best as she could to a 6 year old without getting too detailed. I was sad, not because of what she was telling me, I fully understood this, I was sad because she and my sisters were sad. After she told me I remember saying “okay” and reiterating to her that I understood. I didn’t cry, I didn’t ask questions. I have always been a clear cut type of person:
- She couldn’t do it
- You could
- Good home
- Great Parents
- Place to Live/Sleep
There was nothing else to discuss. Dry your eyes. God sent you to do a job. Continue to raise all this awesomeness you see before you today, okay mom?
My parents had five kids when I came along. FIVE. To add another to their already bustling brood was not just an undertaking, but sacrificial. I couldn’t do it. Seriously, Bumblebee is like five kids in one. We are in Target the other day and he went from wanting Flash, to WWE Superheroes, to Ninja Turtles, to Angry Birds. Like are you for real kid? A Target team member sensed my frustration and offered him stickers. I wished she’d offered wine because it was so needed.
I have the utmost adoration and respect for my mother. She and my dad did something not many people would do. They took someone else’s child and raised them as her own. She loved me without hesitation and not once made me feel inadequate. As an adult all those questions my 6 year old mind couldn’t convey I’ve asked like: How did you explain me to people? How did dad feel about this? And my fave, “Why didn’t you change my name?” I have never been partial to Nieta… people have been pronouncing my name wrong all my life, I’m tired of correcting. Oh it’s Nigh-ee-tah by the way, lol.
I eventually met my birth mother for the first time at 23. Growing up as the baby of my family, I learned I have 4 siblings and I am the oldest on this side. My siblings range from a hairdresser, to an artist/musician, to a blogger/graphic designer, all creative outlets, which explained a lot about myself. My fervent passion for cooking, her physical appearance, and other nuances she possesses all came full circle. I remember my first visit to her house, all she wanted to do was feed me. I saw a lot of her in me as I ask someone at least once a day: “Are you hungry?” I think she cooked everything in her fridge that day. Maybe her way of showing love was through food. Maybe she was trying to reconcile by feeding me 23 years’ worth of food.
Webster defines “Mother” as maternal tenderness or affection; a woman in authority; a female parent. I didn’t understand the term until I had Bumblebee. I never thought I could love another human being the way I love him. In my Michael Rappaport Pop Copy skit voice “I’ll go to Rikers to prove a point” over that kid. My love for him is unyielding and unconditional. Now, take that same love and put yourself in my mother’s position. I couldn’t fathom having that same love for someone and to raise them knowing that at any moment that person could be taken away from you. This is what my mother did for me. She took a risk and sacrificed to give me not just a great life, but a CHANCE at life. Happy Mother’s Day to you great women who do this daily. Now I have to go…I think Bumblebee’s hungry.