Today is my mama’s 50th birthday

[Read my Privilege Statement]

Today is my mama’s 50th birthday.

My mom has been young my whole life. She’s still so young. And yet, it is a strange feeling when someone you have watched grow up turns 50.

She had me when she was 20 years old, 5 months fresh in the US.

10 days later, she tucked me inside her jacket to legally enter a bar on her 21st birthday.

I made a best friend when she became a babysitter to make some extra cash. She gave me a baby sister when she was just 23.

At 24 we learned English together.

In her mid-20’s she’d bring me along to classes at City College, then UC Berkeley. I helped her practice monologues and I stared through microscopes, amazed and not fully grasping the world coming alive beneath the lens.

I tagged along to her restaurant job downtown when she was 28. She let me bring customers their checks and take a cut of the tips. We took hip hop dance classes and ran play lines together.

At 29, I saw her and my dad navigate their relationship and make the painful decision to end their marriage. We belted Toni Braxton. She brought home Kahlua and Sauza and Captain Morgan swag following her nights working in brand promotions.

She started her own company at 33. She followed her dreams and took risks, traveling the world and drinking too much ouzo in Greece. As we were looking for our first house, in a fit of excitement we nearly convinced her to buy one without a functioning bathroom.

At 37, she held me and listened to me cry through my first big breakup. She took my feelings seriously, and shared the truth about her experiences.

At 39 she became an empty nester, not quite knowing who she was without her children, for she had never been an adult without them.

On my 20th birthday she told me that she had always dreamed of the day when I would be 20 and she 40, and she couldn’t believe the day had finally come.

Over the next 7 years, we were far apart, but we always found each other on international trips, on the California coast, or in the shade of her lemon tree. We navigated a financial crisis, job changes, and big life decisions, always with each other as counsel.

3 years ago, I realized that moving back home meant that I could see her every weekend.

And now, at 50…

She still mispronounces words and messes up American expressions. She sends me emails and business plans to review and edit.

She reminds me to visualize what I want, and to speak it into the world.

She borrows my dresses and I borrow her shoes.

She runs with me into the ocean, and screams in pitches so high I’m sure the dolphins respond.

She’s warm, soft, and silly and doesn’t take herself too seriously. But trust me… you don’t want to mess with mama bear.

She shares what she’s learning. She’s constantly learning.

She loves me and my sister unconditionally. I can feel it. Sometimes it feels like the only truth I’ll ever know.