Words Matter

Not long ago my daughter wrote to me: “Don’t forget that the words you say have a particular power to hurt me or make me feel good.” So I took note: even if we don’t like to admit it, mother’s words matter.

My mother was a good person, not perfect but a good person. Despite that she referred to my father’s sisters as snakes. He had three sisters: one of them was kind and two of them The Snakes. I’ve spent years listening to sentences like: “Well, let’s face The Snakes!” or “What did The Snakes of your aunts told you?”

Nowadays people think I should forget. Maybe I should, but then words matter and mother’s words matter even more. When I was young I just thought that she didn’t like their personalities. My mother was a straightforward person. Sometimes her frontal way of communicating surprised people. On the contrary, my snake aunts were all smiles and kind words and after, privately, especially between the two of them, they said precisely the opposite. I really thought it was a question of different characters, but I had eyes and ears, I grow up and understood. The Snakes had bitten my mother.

Because of my sister’s anaemia, we left the island were we spent nearly 3 years. Despite doctors’ opinions, our return to Portugal was fiercely negotiated. My mother had a dream for us. In it my sister was a ballerina and I was some expert in French language or close. I am not sure what she really wanted for me, but involved a known French college. She needed the big city in order to fulfill her dream. You know, ballet classes and French college.

My father was supportive until The Snakes told him: “How come you let your wife live alone in the big city? It’s not proper. People will talk.” Instead of big city and big dreams, my mother had to content with small town, local colleges. I suppose that our life is nor better or worse because of that. Just different. They had a decisive role in changing it. I am not bitter about it and if I were it wouldn’t be because of that.

I just cannot ignore that they cut my mother’s dream short. Dreams shouldn’t die like that. I cannot forget her fight for the right to dream. It took her almost eight years and 3 houses, each one further and further away from The Snakes. From my grandmother’s house, which I clearly remember displayed number 13, to the house were she had the happiest time of her live, there’s a road called Freedom.

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