I grew up, despite my mere 37 years, in the pre-Vatican two 1950s. My mother wanted to become a nun, and she was the kind of woman who went to church multiple days a week for fun. She had found deep salvation on her knees before the Virgin Mary, and nothing held as fast as her devotion. She came here to marry a man who she never met and is still married to this very day. A journey that crossed an ocean with a bridge that was built by letters. She found herself in a country that had colonized her own—to seek her fortune colored Norman Rockwell and tasting of Coca Cola. The mother of a daughter who would never really know where she was coming from, girls who did not bleed the obedience that ran through the veins of all Filipinos.
When you come from traditional roots, there grows within you the seed of rebellion. You were never going to fit into a framework whose instructions were only in Visayan anyway. This was to be the soil of a lifetime of misunderstanding each other. There were rules in her system, children obeyed, and they go to college and become nurses or managers. If you are smart then perhaps you would be a lawyer or doctor. If you were gay, in my mother's world, then definitely your destiny was to do hair. Lesbians don't exist; how would they have children? All of it felt arbitrary.
Kirk Cobain had killed himself when I was in middle school, and by high school, it was a mash between Jewel and Manson. In my corner, though, we were buried in the civil rights movement. I was a vocal activist who was firmly against the sexual repression that my mother insisted was the right way to behave. While there was great hope in my intelligence, there was little hope for my morality. I was always marching towards Montgomery thinking about the day that I would overcome. While, my mother was busy measuring my hem length and insisting that I would single handedly bring the AIDS crisis home by being friends with those people.
A generation has shifted between those years and now. I found myself on the right side of history in a world that tilted very much in my direction. They thought the America they knew was never going to change and I would be shut down by a society that was opposed to my ideas. It was hard to see at the time but what motivated her was a deep concern for my safety. Conformity is safer, and being the tiller of the system was never going to harm you. For her such systems were easy, the rules didn't have to make sense, so she never felt bound by them. She instead found comfort in the meaning-making they provide, a happiness that was unachievable to me. We unearthed some common ground between her truths and mine, but mostly we tend separate gardens and sometimes share our seeds.