I have my mother’s voice. It is the one part of me that is hers. My long limbs, brown skin, dark, round eyes, snub nose- all these belong to m father. But my voice: its pitch and inflections, the way it rises when I’m upset or laughing, the watery weight it holds when I’m tired- these are the exact reflections of my mother in me.
My mother gave me her voice one cold winter morning when I was twelve. She leaned over my bed before there was any light out and whispered in my ear, promised me warm tea and the cold, comforting goodness of snow and hot vanilla syrup… all I had to do was rise. I dreamed of snow before I was fully awake. I opened my eyes to my mother’s own hazel orbs and she kissed my forehead before lifting me from the bed.
It was early in the morning; the sun was still dawning, slaughtered on the horizon. The unlit parts of the sky were sapped of colour. My mother and I were in the kitchen boiling syrup on the stove. Large white flurries had descended late in the night before and we were making waxed snow. The frozen grey of the sky outside the kitchen window had its opposite in the warm, sugary, vanilla air that enveloped us in the kitchen. I had collected a large pot of fresh clean snow and set it down by the back door to keep cold as we cooked the syrup. The snow glowed with a silver light of its own as though it was remembering or dreaming about the moonlight that it had reflected the night before. I was drinking mint tea and my mother was stirring the syrup and we didn’t speak- just sat quietly enjoying the patina of home and family that always covers a warm kitchen in winter.
When the syrup started to boil she covered it and turned down the fire, she would let it scorch slightly so that it would have the perfect heat and consistency to pour over the snow. Then she walked over to the pot of snow in the corner and scooped some into her hands. She held them over the sink and snow melted slowly in the warmth of her blood pulsing under the delicate skin of her palms. The water she held in her hands glowed as I had noticed the snow did earlier but now with the golden light of the early morning sun coming through the kitchen window. My mother blew on her hands to make the snow melt completely. She then cupped her hands and sipped the water from them and held them out to me to do the same. In all this time we had not said a word to each other; she had pulled me out of bed — her shy and gangly middle daughter — in order to share this winter morning with me, I had not thought to question why. I went to her and I drank the water from her hands…
The water was cold and warm at the same time; after I drank, she held her hands to my cheeks and I could feel the warmth of my face and the cold of her hands mingling in the minute space between her skin and mine. The water burned cold in my throat, but I could feel it resting hot in my stomach after I swallowed. I could feel the light of it pulsing inside me, spreading into my veins, and I felt the familiar spread of warmth I knew from drinking hot black tea after coming in from the cold. I blinked and my mother pressed her forehead to mine and squeezed my head between her hands. She smiled. I could feel all her feeling for me- her loving, and losing, and wishing, and being disappointed and watching me grow- lost in the small space of the kitchen. I could feel all that feeling pushing against the walls of the house, enveloping me and she breathed it into me: her seeing and her warm, big heart. And between us there was nothing, no difference, no secrets.
I smiled back at her and she laughed. And I laughed with her, with all the joy of our sudden understanding. My laugh sounded exactly the same as hers, my voice was her voice. It always had been.