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We had moved back in with my grandparents about four months earlier. It was almost midnight on a Wednesday when my grandmother came storming into my room, asking for my mom.

“Where is she?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do. Don’t lie to me! She’s out acting like she’s your age while her children wait at home!”
My grandmother could smell deceit the way old Cuban farmers smell rain coming. She was throwing her arms over her head, rolling her eyes. I took a deep breath before responding, “My mother is an adult, and so are my sister and I. She’s allowed to have a social life.”
“She should never have left her house and pulled you girls out of your environment! The woman never leaves, the man does. It’s disgraceful. She’s being selfish and irresponsible, as usual.”
I could not stop the familiar rush of blood to my face that made me dizzy and my vision blur.

My dad once told me how my mom let him drive her all the way to abortion clinic before telling him that she had sat down to a full breakfast, and therefore she couldn’t go through with the procedure. And oh yea, by the way, she wasn’t going through with it at all. My mom waited until after her high school graduation to tell my grandmother, who cried hysterically, that she was pregnant. But I’m here now because my mom does things in her way and in her time. My grandmother will probably never forgive her for being her own person.

“Don’t ever talk to me that way about my mom. It’s always been her, my sister, and me, and no one else will ever be included in that circle. If she tells me something she doesn’t tell you, deal with it.”
Her face was the color of a cherry. She stood rigid in my doorway, shaking with anger. I looked away and turned on the TV. A door slammed on the opposite side of the house as my sister sat down silently next to me, my quiet ally.

When my sister and I were little, when it was just the three of us in our small apartment, my mom would put raincoats on us and pull us out to dance with her during tropical storms. We trusted her to keep us safe in the weather, which wasn’t bad, just wild and misunderstood, like her. She’s kept me, and in recompense I keep her. My mother is frustrating, strong willed, unique, a North Star, and a safe harbor. She’s a gift, not a burden. My grandmother will never understand, but I will always be my mother’s keeper.


-Jessica Gueits Lugo