I’ve decided it’s time to get my own place. I concocted this plan after a ridiculous battle ensued between Mami and me. The culprit: a mountain of clothing. The location: my bedroom couch. Which is inside my New York apartment within Mami’s apartment. Mami walked into my bedroom and noticed that a set of clothes she’d washed lay on my bedroom couch next to the mountain of clothes that were dirty. She accused me of not appreciating her hard work of tidying up for me and (in my head) I vowed to move out on April 1st—fifteen days shy of my 34th birthday.
My goal is now less than a month away. I’ve dreamt of this moment since I moved into the middle bedroom of this very apartment in May 2006. I had no choice. Much like the six million young adults who have moved back in with their parents, I had just finished school and had no job. I had nowhere to go but my mother’s bedroom, like a Boomerang Kid who has a higher degree but nowhere to don a business suit. All due to a down economy and expensive school loan payments I could not afford.
But I don’t know if I can do it.
A couple of months ago my stepfather declared his plans to move to the Dominican Republic. Like most foreign-born Americans, he wants to return to the motherland. The thing is, Mami isn’t going with him. While my stepfather envisions a life where he drinks Brugal while rocking on the porch of his Santiago home, Mami fantasizes about a home in Teaneck, NJ. That way she’ll be close enough to NYC when she needs imported Domincan oregano or aloe from the botanica. She also refuses to leave her children’s side.
So, can I move? Can I leave Mami to live on her own without a companion? I’m not sure. I have yet to tell Mami of my plans, fearing an emotional reaction. Mami is attached. Her kids are her life and my presence here, in her home, enables her role of Doting Mother. She is proud of that role. She doesn’t know how to be anyone else. And so, I’ve kept this from her. Mami doesn’t see this coming. I even caught her throwing out the one box I’ve kept from my old apartment. I walked to the bathroom and there it was. My cardboard box filled with my midnight blue ceramic plates, cups and silverware and marked ‘KITCHEN.’ I keep it in my apartment, because to me, it represents my freedom, my former life in my own space. She was throwing away my freedom!
I have to tell her the truth.
But how can I? As much as I want to march into the living room and tell her I am moving out, I fear she will become depressed living alone. I feel guilty and am questioning my future plans. As I envision the photographs I’ll frame and hang along walls, I feel a pang of sadness. I don’t want my mother to be without companionship. I don’t want my mother to be alone at almost 64, living in an apartment that was once full of life, children and a husband. I don’t want to hurt my mother but I know I need to live my life. As I stare at the box marked ‘KITCHEN,’ filled with midnight blue cups, silverware and plates, I wonder if I can leave her.