May Mommas

I talk to both my mother and my grandmother every day. It doesn’t feel like a burden or something that I have to do; I just do it. It’s part of my ritual. I call my mom when I’m walking and my grandmother when I’m having a cup of coffee. Sometimes our conversations are long and deep, and sometimes I think we just want to hear each other’s voices; a reminder that despite this huge mass of land between us, we’re still connected. We still care, and we can take a little time in our day to let it be known.

My mother and my grandmother have a difficult relationship. My grandmother is extremely traditional, very Catholic. She raised her children with those ideals and an iron fist. As an adolescent, my mother rebelled against this lifestyle and constantly taunted my grandmother with her free spirit.

They have a loving relationship, but the space between them is deep like a gorge. There is no intellectual common ground, and over time I believe this created resentment and a lack of respect for the other (and I say this with nothing but admiration and love towards each of them).

I think this dynamic between them really informed the way that I was raised and the relationship I have with my own mother.

It’s hard for me to define my upbringing. The way that I was raised, there is no such thing as extended family. Everyone is involved. And I mean EVERYONE. It wasn’t just my mother, or my father, but my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends.

The memories of the sounds of my grandmother’s house are what I am most fond of; the spanish telenovela buzzing like white noise in the background, my grandmother yelling at my grandfather because she thinks he can’t hear her, his saw whirring, her sewing machine humming, my uncle singing to Stan Getz, my aunt scraping a saucepan while she cooks, my mom laughing, and my grandmother’s bird, Floyd, squawking over everything. It’s so fluid. Each person has their own little track to walk on, and it all just worked, albeit in the most chaotic way.

And then there I am, in the middle of everything, amidst all of these sounds, and between these dichotomous forces of the matriarch and her daughter.

I have very specific relationships with my mother and my grandmother.

My mom is my best friend. I have no censor around her, and our relationship is open and honest. Simple as that.

My relationship with my grandmother is a little more complicated. I handle her with care. I respect her and her beliefs, but I have never accepted them as my own. She might realize this, but she refuses to believe it. My artistic interest in religion and tradition keeps her at peace. I have taken a different approach to my relationship with her than my mother did. Seeing their relationship from the outside, I know that my grandmother can see right through my mother’s impatience and omission. So, I am honest. I don’t call to tell her about the man that was in my bed last night, or my constant questioning of faith and spirituality, but I will have a conversation with her about these ideas.

It can be hard to navigate this type of communication; toeing the line of saying too much, but still wanting to talk to this person genuinely about my life.

With that said, my grandmother is always praying for us (my mom and I). Racked with religious guilt and the weight of our lot on her shoulders, she prays in hopes that we’ll enter the pearly gates with her. It’s hard to know that she carries all of this with her at all times. I wish that I could take that worry away from her and make her understand that we really will be okay. But at the same time, this is her role. I don’t know who she would be if not our advocate for the possibility of eternal life.

Over the years my family has become much smaller, and now the women dominate the Conde clan. I have since found my little place in my little home, where tradition is sometimes fractured but still lives on.

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Talk to your mommas!

In honor of my many mothers,

Nico Mazza