My mother’s journey

It was the first time I had seen my mother completely break down and cry. Not the welling of eyes or the gentle, lonely tear deserting it. I witnessed the violence of emotions breaking through a barrier of space and time, unseen by me and known only to her. I stood still, incapable of reacting. Was the lady sobbing uncontrollably really my mother? Where had these tears been all these years? My mother had always been cold, distant, stoic. An alien in a city she migrated into. Till that day, I had never known my mother was even capable of such strong emotions.

What was all the more surprising was that this torrent had been triggered by a place that had absolutely no resemblance to its past. Everything had changed. The homes, lanes, trees, even the smells. I realize now that the changes, drastic though they were, could not have ebbed the deluge of memories. Just the “sense” of familiarity was all that was needed. The setting “felt” similar to the one into which I was born; into which my parents were born. It was the place where they had roamed the fruit orchards together, bathed in the village well, climbed trees, played with tops and screamed from the hills. The place where their friendship gradually morphed into matrimony and matrimony into parenthood. The place where they pieced together a space they could call their own. This place had been their asylum, their identity. This place then, left its searing mark on my mother’s life and beyond, on its destruction. The earthquake had not only shaken her world, it had shaken her identity. The once happy, talkative, dreamer was left broken amongst the ruin. Although my grandmother had recounted this tale on a number of occasions earlier, the true enormity of the tragedy was revealed to me by her tears on that day.

I recollected my grandmother’s words. The catastrophe had come unannounced on a day like any other. My mother was trying to feed an adamant me, then a one-year-old, on the porch. My father was in the bedroom, mending a broken chair. Suddenly, the earth started shaking violently with the rumble of distant thunder. Terrified, overcome by a mother’s instinct, she clutched me to herself and ran outside – just in time to see the building collapse into a pile of debris, my father included. It was probably at that moment that my mother lost herself. She stood still, staring at her wrecked life as I clung to her and cried. There lay somewhere, crushed under the weight of fate, the love of her life and her soul. Covered in gray dust, matted all over, she knew she had committed the unthinkable mistake. She had run outside instead of going inside to her husband. She had lived and lost her life. If she had survived, it was as only as a punishment for the unforgivable. She cried only after three days; days she had spent as a corpse. But the tears had been brief then and rarely breached thereafter too. Perhaps, she thought deserved every predicament that came her way; accepted her punishment as a means to redemption… Soon, being too poor and too broken to revive their livelihood, we had all migrated to the city to eke out a living.

As far as my memory stretches, my mother had only struggled. I am still amazed at the courage and resilience with which she spent her life trying to provide me with a decent education, often at much cost to her health. The only thing she held back though – was love. She never loved me and didn’t feel the need to be loved. She just needed to get by with living. It was my grandmother who taught me to love and accept love. Who knows how I might have turned out if not for her anchor while my mother drifted in a sea of misery.

The drift seemed to stall about 5 months back. Perhaps she had sensed the end was near. She wanted to return to her roots, her village and thus began her journey of forgiveness. Somehow, that journey changed her. It seemed to give her a semblance of long lost peace. With each passing day, her spirits rose as her health receded. She died last week…. I can’t say that I loved her with all my heart. But I can say that I cried like a child.

Word count: 741

Requirement is to write a prose within 750 words using the optional prompt “I am amazed at her mountainous courage.”

This story runs like a personal non-fiction essay without dialogues. My modest attempt for this week.

21 thoughts on “My mother’s journey

  1. Just as you say, this reads like a memoir of a tragic life. I especially liked the quick list of activities that gave a feel of the parents’ past and setting, as well as the last two lines. My only suggestion is one of formatting. I think it would read better if broken into shorter paragraphs. This was a touching piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your opening was so strong. I wanted to know why your mother cried like that. And why she hadn’t before. It was almost a story in itself. I had to make one suggestion, it would be to take a look at the flow. The paragraphs were long and often included sentences that started the same way. That can work, but in this case it made it hard for me as a reader. I had to stop and restart a few times to pick up the thread.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the encouragement and the suggestions. Your feedback is very helpful and makes me look at my writing differently. I hope to be able to correct this in the future. Thanks again!


  3. I really liked this sentence:

    “This place had been their asylum, their identity.”

    The comparison of a safe place and that which defines a person can be tough for those who haven’t had to escape from tough circumstances. The story that comes later parallels this statement, as the escape to safety from the falling building served as a crucial identity-forming element for the mother. Great build-up and use of theme!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s easy to see how the earthquake impacted so many lives in this family. The mother’s emotional devastation was especially clear. Some of the timing confused me, though – when was it that the main character saw their mother cry? And I agree with the other commenters that some paragraph breaks would help with readability. However, this packs a lot of emotion in, and does a good job of showing how tragedy can affect multiple generations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot! I will mind the feedback and try to incorporate them.
      Clarification: The mother cries when she finally goes back to visit her village few months before her death. This visit changed her for the better although it lasted only for a few months.


  5. Your opening paragraph was such a lovely example of underwriting emotion to great effect. It’s often easy to slip into sappiness or melodrama when writing big emotions, but you exercised good control in this piece. You also have some really delightful turns of phrase throughout the piece. This one is a particularly good example of the kind of subtle writing of big emotions I’m talking about: “She had lived and lost her life.”

    There are, however, a few issues with pronoun agreement (because you refer to the narrator’s mother and grandmother, I’m not always sure who “she/her” refers to), and with missing pronouns that another round of edits could have picked up.

    The world you built here (the village, the life of the narrator) bear more exploration. I hope to see these characters in some form again in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback, both the good and the improvements. Really appreciate it. I will try my best to incorporate these in my future writing.
      I hope that the characters will evolve into a longer story too. :-). Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That is a very good story indeed. I slightly disagree with the other comments in that I had no difficulty following any of the characters or timing. Be very careful not to spoil the flow with further editing. I read the story three times, not because it was hard to follow but because I enjoyed it so much. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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