Only a quarter of me belonged to each of them. Half of half of the stuff I’m made of, came from them. And yet they hover there, surrounding me.
It’s a common feeling, I’m realizing– this sense of closeness, of reverence for grandmothers. I called my maternal grandmother the Khmer equivalent of “mom” even now. Of course– I grew up in a house full of aunts and uncles who all called her that, and who never told me that I should call her otherwise.
At some point, I began to get embarassed that I called her “Maiy.” The term left my lips with trepidation. I knew the right word for grandmother, and a part of me wanted to call her that, but that didn’t feel right, either.
So there I was, stuck. Almost mute.
But whenever I went to her, whenever I spoke to her, always, she was “Maiy.”
And she was a mother to me, as much as my mother was. She was not the doting grandparent whom I only saw on special occasions. For a while I had the habit of thinking of her as the mean grandmother I had to stay with, but she wasn’t that either.
She raised me. Along with my uncles, my aunts, my parents.