-“Don’t look at anyone during the ceremony,” my grandmother Yolanda said to Gladys, my mother, right before they were ready to leave their home in Colón to attend the wedding of one of her nieces in downtown Montevideo.

Gladys was a young, beautiful and red-haired teenager that was already turning heads but  whose conservative Italian parents were raising her in an outer borough near their winery. Gifted with a good ear, my mother wanted to become a teacher of Music but my grandmother adamantly refused to buy her a piano because she might have disturbed my grandfather’s naps during her practice runs.

Rebelling against her staid upbringing, she did look at someone. My father Mario, the brother of the groom and a dashing tall young man, caught her eye; a few months later it was their turn to tie the knot. One year later yours truly was born, right in the middle of her act of disobedience.

My mother dedicated herself to take care of her children while my father pursued a career in a commercial bank, which meant long hours at his desk. My mother was always in a sunny mood and never let her two children know about her underlying frustration of not being able to pursue a teaching career and her passion for piano; only later in life did she confess that to us. But her rebellious streak simmered on and would occasionally re-surface.

One day, when I was a first-grader in the Lycée Français, I came back from school in a distraught mood. My mother noticed it when she was serving me the cafe-au-lait.

-“What’s wrong son?” she asked me.

-“Er…My teacher suddenly changed me to another room today, down the hallway…When we were practicing the alphabet, a boy next to me asked how to do the letter a…Mom, how could he not know it by now?”

-“Mmm…sounds strange. I’ll go talk to the teacher tomorrow. Don’t worry.”

In a typically authoritarian move of the rigid French educational system, my teacher (I remember her name and face very well but I will not identify her) had been upset by my hyperactive way of socializing in class and decided unilaterally, without consulting her superior or even calling my parents, to demote me to a room full of laggards of the tough learning system. And then you wonder why the Vietnamese kicked the French out in Dien-Bien-Phu…

I remember that I was promptly installed back in my room and seat the next day after my mother paid an unannounced visit and spoke with the director.

Unfazed by the incident, I unabashedly went back to my routine of turning front and back to chat in earnest. My mother was standing in the left side of the doorway feigning to be listening to two teachers on the right side of it. Over the years I learned her quaint way of dealing with stubborn contenders; she closed her eyes, slightly nodded her head and muttered the word “yes.”

Her seemingly passive attitude was the expression of camouflaged rebellion.

-“See! See!” my teacher said pointing at me. “He’s still talking around—”

-“Yes, yes” my mother said, calmly assenting. “ But he’s staying here…”

Those professionals, in spite of their training in Uruguay and an educational stint in Paris, could not handle my mother, a woman that only completed primary school.

That day I decided to conserve the great attributes of the French culture (my father’s heritage) but to develop the disarming wits and bold determination of the resilient Italian peasantry that had to learn how to neutralize many seemingly superior invaders over the centuries in order to survive. And that critical choice has served us very well.

Gracias Mamá

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

20 thoughts on “Born a rebel

  1. Dr. Sahib, thanks sharing your write-up.

    I am really impressed by your mother’s initiative about the episode in the class. At times, mothers do solve so many problems for us – if we remember, there may be umpteenth but all are unique.

    My grateful thanks for sharing your blog.

    With regards,

    1. Our good, devoted mothers are still watching and protecting us from Heaven, my dear spiritual friend across the oceans. Never doubt it!

      1. Dr. Sahib: I too feel the presence of my Mother and seek her assistance whenever I am stuck.


  2. Outstanding article!!! Bravo. Your mother was a very special woman. Her family took priority over her “wants” which makes her a saint in my book! Some mothers sadly do not feel that way and that will be the topic of another blog by me one day!
    It also appears that you are a bit of a “mess”! (Meant in a good way). Perhaps “spirited” is a better way to define you. HeHe. Sounds like me too!

    1. Dear Roxy: good afternoon and thanks for your nice commentary. Yes, her family’s needs came always first and she was always ready to sacrifice herself. That’s why her sons and grandsons revere her memory every day. As far as moi is concerned, let me make it perfectly clear: I am totally, irreversibly and proudly fucked up, dear. If not how do you think I could do all these tasks in earnest? Un baccione. Ciao!

      1. And just to think I was afraid you were offended by my dirty word. I save the worst epithets for the infamous D.C Duncehood though.

      2. I’ve spoken worse but do not like to use vulgarities as a form of expression or speech. I’m less likely to be taken seriously. 😀 Offended, not in the least!!!

      3. Exactly those vulgarities demean and distract from the content of our mesages. You know how that expresion came through almost unconsciously to my writings? That’s exactly how more than one girlfriend has labelled me before dumping me outright…Buh. Buh.

  3. Me encantó Marito y tengo el honor de haber hablado con tu Madre y con tu Abuela alguna vez hace muchos años, cuando trataba de ubicarte en Montevideo. Mi buen amigo me había abandonado y yo no tenía idea de adónde encontrarlo! Así que decidí llamar donde tu Abuela. Por suerte me habías dado su teléfono. Fue un placer hablar con ella y con tu Madre. Todas estas Abuelas y Madres de antes poseian mucha sabiduría y sobre todo mucho sentido común que por cierto no se adquiere en Colegios ni Universidades sino que se nace con ello. Y por suerte nos legaron esas cualidades.

    1. Querida Merceditas: buenas noches y muchas gracias por tu emocionante comentario sobre mis Tanas queridas. Si tenian una sabiduria muy especial y muchas mañas para defender los intereses de su familia que no se aprenden en la Universidad. Un beso grande.

  4. Muy lindo papi. Que fuerza tenia la abuela, simpre hacia lo mejor, un beso, Giani.

    1. Hola mijo. Si, la Abuela fue siempre una luchadora por su familia en cualquier lugar y en cualquier momento. Y no le tenia miedo a nadie, por mas titulos y oropeles que tuviera. Gracias Abuela Gladys!

    2. Querido hijo, me alegra que te haya gustado. Si, la Abuela tenia mucha fuerza moral y espiritual ya que siempre hizo el bien, sin mirar a quien. Nos cuido mucho en este mundo y ahora vela por nosotros desde el Cielo. Un beso. Papi.

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