Mother's Day

[DETOURS] The mother of all detours

Romeo Alcantara II
[DETOURS] The mother of all detours

Art by David Castuciano

‘Maybe the drastic changes in our lives were not meant to be road signs. Maybe they were meant to be necessary stops on our journey.’

Editor’s note: In celebration of mother’s day, we called for essays that talk about how our mothers influenced our life’s greatest detours. In this piece, Romeo Alcantara II talks about the 3 moms in his life and how they made him who he is today. You, too, can share your Detours essays. Here’s how.

The best detours in life happen when we opt for the longer route. They let you drive with the view of orange sunset hues over the ocean blues and cut through hills that look like pictures in a travel book. These detours may be longer, but they are more scenic and are thus worth adding a few hours to your travel time.

The detours in my life aren’t like that. Mine were the kind where you took the quickest route, but the only highway on your path is blocked by container trucks, so you have to wait for the traffic enforcer to signal that you can now counterflow along the dirt road. You would also end up travelling for a longer time – but without the Instagram stories to show for your trouble.

The first “road closed” sign in my life happened rather early. My birthday cake had not even been taken out of the box yet, its 4 unlit candles symbolic of a celebration that ended before it started. The car accident that took my mom’s life not only forced us to redecorate the room from Happy Birthday streamers to RIP flowers, but it also altered the course of my life. 

Losing a mother, whether you are 4 or 34, just changes a lot in your life. With my grandmother taking over my care, her spoiling ways became the rule. I got everything I wanted, and most of what I needed – surely, a 4-year-old needed better than to be taught that if I needed anything, I could always ask someone to do it for me. This path started with unpaved roads, but it looked like it was going to be a smooth drive from then on for me.

Nope.

She did not ask to be called “mommy,” but that was what my dad told me and my sister to call her. When we finally moved into her house, the days of pampering ended. From living what one could refer to as a lawless childhood life, I had to make a U-turn to a household with rules and strict discipline.

If there had been road signs in our house, we would have run out of real estate. One time, I was scolded when I borrowed some law books from the library, not because I was too young to understand Black’s and SCRA, but because I did not return them in the exact order they were in on the shelf. 

If you knew my lola, you would know that for someone raised by her to even put things back where they came from was an accomplishment in itself. From a 12 midnight TV and playtime curfew, my free time was reduced to an hour, but only after my sister and I did our chores. As a teenager, I had a 6 pm curfew. The first time I was allowed to go to the mall with my friends, I was a sophomore in high school.

It was neither a bad nor a particularly hard life, but it was the south to my prior life’s north. The very first morning I woke up in that house, I was told to make my bed. As early as then, I knew party time was over.

I was not neglected or unloved. I had everything I needed, even if I did not get everything I wanted. But it was this contrast between my stepmom’s rules and my grandmother’s lack of them that threw me in for a loop. Like Goldilocks traveling in the woods, I found myself in a chair that was too large, then I had to learn to sit in one that was too small. What I know now is that life is just like a chair – there’s no one size. It is more like porridge. When you tried one that is too hot and another that is too cold, the best thing to do is to mix them to get a bowl of food at the perfect temperature for you.

LISTEN TO DETOURS FROM HOME PODCAST ON SPOTIFY

As we are about to celebrate Mother’s Day, I am reminded of the three moms in my life: my – for lack of a better word – “biological” mother, my lola, and my stepmom (calling her “stepmom” is weird; she has always just been “mommy”). They mark three important checkpoints in my life.

It makes one think. Maybe the drastic changes in our lives were not meant to be road signs. Maybe they were meant to be necessary stops on our journey, where we can rest, stretch our legs, and stock up on food for the rest of the trip. Or maybe the detours themselves are the adventures. We don’t know it yet, but perhaps the scenic route starts with a “road closed” sign. – Rappler.com

Romeo Alcantara II has been working from home for the better part of ten years now and is currently a virtual admin assistant for a Sydney-based company. He writes as his pastime and is a passionate fan of the San Antonio Spurs from the NBA. He believes that pineapple does not belong on pizza, bacon should be crispy, and chocolates should not contain coconut.