Aidan Mauricio Villasenor-Walker: When I was 22 and pregnant with you, I shaved my legs for the first time ever, in an attempt to look pretty. It didn’t work. !
When I was 23, I remember rocking and channeling you to come into this physical world. I saw colors and lights, your birth was long, intense and spiritual. It was a homebirth, your dad caught and held you before me or the midwife.Of course now when I see your bond with him, I yell, “TRAITOR!”
When you were 3 years old, I was 26. I got the call while at my community organizing job that you “likely” had autism. I was working with foster care youth, Latina mamis, had a weekly radio show, and was in college—let’s not forget managing the business your dad and I had for 6 years by then.
I hung up the phone and stared at it for a long time. Then I walked out.
We relied mostly on holistic stuff, but couldn’t afford therapies and training you needed. We stopped working, no choice, no good health insurance for your needs. I kicked your dad in the ass and made him to go to grad school. Told him to stop playing music (he didn’t). Got us Medicaid and food stamps, we lived off student loans. Carted you to therapies.
We began a winter of me, you, and your dad living in a 600 s.f. house with the heat blowing out of one of those old fifties furnaces. I thought each time it kicked on that you would have autism AND some other disease as a result. The city found lead in paint on the outside of that house and came in and did work. No, you didn’t eat any paint chips, you had autism before we moved there. But still…
Because we had stopped working, the IRS came after us for business taxes we couldn’t pay. They put a lien on that little house. I wanted to scream at them to take it. I didn’t. We said goodbye to any equity, refinanced at a high rate, all we could get, paid them off. Vultures.
Your dad had to eat food in the car because I didn’t allow gluten in the house. I made tortillas with rice and xantham gum. You hated everything except for soy fritters. Then I took away soy.
No one liked me. I didn’t like me.
I spent hours and days researching. You went with me to the Latina Mami office.
I was running community projects and worked on mamis’ problems (not mine), while I was there. You put up with it, got comfortable with the low roar and high pitches that happen at rallies, meetings, and community gatherings.
When I was 28 or 29ish, you were 6, I revealed the money I had been saving to your dad (I’m a survivor, you are too, never forget). He didn’t want another house. I did. It was a fiveplex in a university area. I was thinking ahead of money we needed for your therapies and medical expenses, living creatively, how to separate but not be far away so we could coparent….your dad always says I have crazy ideas that end up working (true).
We moved into that house and that began another round of stress. Our dog died.
Your dad said your stepmother first heard about me from other teachers, they gossiped that there was some crazy mom out there suing everyone for her kid, AND teaching all the poor brown mothers how to do it, too. Your stepmom didn’t even live in our city! Then she realized the crazy mom they were talking about was the separated wife of the man she was dating. Ha.
That wasn’t the first time I’ve been gossiped or whispered about, won’t be the last. When you speak the truth and stick to your values (which by the way, are just HUMAN values), some people and systems don’t like it. Money and prestige are always less important than justice. I think you know by now I can’t live any other way.
Your stepdad says that’s the one thing he loves about me, I’m willing to take a hit, and have, for the right thing. When he met us we were living in a cramped apartment, but I was doing what I love, helping mamis and parents and we were HAPPY. I’m grateful for all the extras we’ve been given, but they’re not necessary to living a good life.
Thank you for receiving me with open arms every time I came back from meetings, when I argued with your dad, every time I dropped a file on the floor in exhaustion at the end of the night.
When I was 31ish? I spent a year and a half carting you each weekend to your dad’s while I ran down to the Texas/Mexico border working on more groups and issues and problems, this time in the colonias. I think you know that I really needed those people and victories then.
Oh yeah, I also had a full time job and was doing legal advocacy for a law firm. We had a rack in the car for our clothes because we drove so much from city to city in Texas. You did well on long car rides. You sang “Purple Rain”, said “Mommy to be quiet” when you had enough. You had to put on your school uniform in the car sometimes.
I filed agency and school complaints and more for you, let’s just say I had them calendared for every 6 months or so.
But maybe you just wanted me to color with you, sometimes, to take you to Denny’s (is that what people do?). Instead of running another organizing meeting in someone’s yard with roosters walking by and trying to calm the (white) attorneys I had helping, who were looking around at lean-to homes with no plumbing, saying “THIS is America? Are you SURE we’re on the American side?!?”
But being normal has never really been my thing. No offense, it’s not really yours.
Your dad always wanted a more normal, middle class life for you and threatened to take you to live with him in that little town he lived in with his girlfriend. He implied I was too busy, being a single mom and all. That’s when I rose up. There are no other words to describe it. If he had ever seen me rise up against others, he saw more then: legally and financially.
You and I spent another couple of years processing our feelings. We both needed to spend that time alone, just me and you.
I moved you away from everyone to California. Your dad acted surprised, but I’d only been planning and telling everyone about our exit for years…no one listens to me at first, something you and I have in common. Remember when they don’t listen, you need to act. I don’t regret it, our lives are so much better. But I’m a mother: nothing is ever right, is it?
And everything IS right, just because we have another day together. We have had more time together than other mothers and sons have had.
Fast forward: you’re almost 16. I’m inching toward the big 4-0.
We do a wary dance around each other. You’re stubborn (WHY WON’T YOU SLEEP IN YOUR TENT BED?). You get mad at me about not getting a sausage biscuit, I lecture you about corporations, consumerism, bad food. Obesity. Then your stepdad slips you junk. Repeat.
I’d be lying if I were to say I don’t wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, on nights you don’t wake up, and cry about you, still. I’m not afraid of losing your stepdad, as MUCH as I love him. I know how to live alone and make it, that no longer scares me. But losing you?
I see mothers who’ve lost their children. Mother’s Day (in the U.S.) was originally for the mothers whose children died. Here we are, every day mothers are losing their children…but now it’s all about flowers and brunch, typical of our country, we dilute everything to remain in denial. Tears come for those mothers and their lost children late at night, too.
Those tears wash away any pain, and in the morning, at least I get to have another day with you.