Canon XSi, 08/2013
Mother- daughter relationships are some of the most complex in the world. Whether it is because it’s the nature of interactions between two women or if it’s because it is a relationship that is emotional by nature, my relationship with my mother was beyond that.
When I was about seven years old, my parents finalized their divorce and my mother left our household. At the time, I wasn’t old enough to understand why she made the decision she did - all I knew was the resentment I felt for me and my brother’s abandonment. I didn’t have many friends with broken, dysfunctional families and had a hard time explaining why I lived with only my dad and my brother. I had a hard time explaining - not only to others, but to myself - why my mother didn’t take us with her. In the few scenarios of divorce that I was aware of, the mother always stayed with her children. I was left wondering with why we were the exceptions and with each day, my detachment grew.
Fifteen years later, by some trick of fate, my mother decided to come back into our home and into our lives. She had been living in Seattle with her boyfriend of ten years, and finally decided his abuse wasn’t worth another decade of her life. She hadn’t been working for a few years and had nowhere to turn to and my dad didn’t think twice about taking her in. That’s the kind of person he is. I felt like she was taking advantage of him.
It was rough for me, to say the least. Although I was her blood, I felt no connection to her. I had grown indifferent to this stranger who continued to claim she was my mother. I didn’t know this woman who stood before me and forced herself back into my life. I had no respect for this person who hadn’t worked a day or spent a penny to support my brother and I - who planned to continue to live off my dad’s hard-earned paycheck. She was a stark contrast to my single dad who raised me and my brother, working tirelessly at his three jobs and I hated her for it.
But she wasn’t all bad.
Yes, she was constantly shopping and living off an income that wasn’t hers. Yes, she lived an extravagant lifestyle that was outside of our family’s means. Yes, she rarely cooked or cared for us even as she lived in our home.
But she also made sure that the house was always spotless. That laundry was done and the carpets vacuumed, the floors mopped. She tidied our rooms without us asking and occasionally had our lunches packed and our errands run. She cared for my two dogs as if she were their mother, and for that, I knew she couldn’t have been a completely evil person.
I set on this project to get to know my mother better and to document the strange relationship I have with her, as her daughter and somewhat also a stranger. I wanted to capture the complexities of our history, but also the evolution of it.
This is, Mother.