I tell people that while from the neck up my mother is Salma Hayek, from the neck down she is Salma Hobbit. There is, however, an abundance of truth in every joke. The truth in mine is twofold: Beatriz Gurba, the woman who gestated me, is an extremely petite creature. She’s also a lady people have always visually admired.
My mother’s inspirational beauty problematized my growing up years. Seeing her, onlookers became poets. They set to work comparing her face to other beautiful faces.
“You know who you look like?” my aunt snarled at her. “That bitch from All My Children!”
My best friend’s mom, a Georgia peach, drawled, “Yer momma looks lack a Hispanic Andie MacDowell!”
“You remind me of Joan Baez,” a blushing social worker sputtered at Mom’s Helen of Troy looks.
Mom responded to these similes with bilingual giggles, and one simile-maker in particular, a supermarket cashier named Francis, after heaping comparisons upon my mother, would look down at my face, wink and say, “There’s no doubt about: We know who you’re father is!”
I broke into sobs that shook merchandise off the shelves.
What six-year-old girl child wants to be told she looks like…
Francis consoled me with free food and sugary beverages. Her conoslation prizes were much of the reason I went on to trick-or-treat as “Cleofatra.”
Once my mustache grew in, my mother taught me to camouflage it with bleach. To camouflage my gayness, I acquired a boyfriend. The way he ogled my mother suggested that he wanted to camouflage her with his penis.
The days of odes were gone. Now that I and my contemporaries were hormonal, they were lusting after my madre in front of my blonde and hairy face!
In college, I taped a picture of Mom, taken while she was in college, to my dorm room’s closet door. The picture literally arrested some guy that was visiting my roommate and frozen in front of her portrait, he bonerishly asked, “Who’s that?”
“Her?” I said. “I came out of her.”
His pride melted flaccid.
I thought that at some point my mother’s beauty would crumble and implode, like a degenerative piñata, but her beauty has withered into an aged rose. I keep some dried roses and carnations in a vase in my living and they’ve taken on a new sort of beauty in their desiccation. It represents my mom’s beauty, still there, still striking, still rich, still fragrant, brittle but uniquely pleasing. Feminine and earthily unbreakable.