The first thing people say to me when I tell them my mother is deceased is “I’m sorry.”

I get why.

Although it’s polite to seem sympathetic, for some reason, I always find it just a little bit off-putting. I can’t explain why.

Not having a mom does indeed suck, if only for the simple reason that it sometimes feels like I’m the only one in the world who’s never had one.

And perhaps that’s it. Perhaps that’s why the condolences don’t sit quite right for me. My mother passed just a few weeks after I was born, and so I never really had a mom. Technically, I never suffered a loss.

Mourning someone you’ve never really met is a very strange predicament to be in. Rather than grieving over the person, you grieve over the “what-ifs.”

What if she had lived? What if we had been just like one of those Hallmark families with a mom, a dad and me, complete with the white picket fence and dog? I cannot help but wonder. For the rest of my life I’ll always wonder “what if.” What if I’m missing out on something?

However, my curiosity shouldn’t be mistaken for dissatisfaction. My family is wonderful, so wonderful that I’m not sure if I would want it to change. Part of me feels guilty for admitting something like that. If my mother had lived, my life would undeniably be different. Could it possibly be better than what I have now?

There is no greater truth than that of the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. For the most part, my father raised me, but I definitely would not be the same person had it not been for the strong women in my family.

Specifically, my grandmother and my aunts were big influences. All of them took on a mother-like role for me. No one asked them to. They just did, and I can never remember it being any other way.

Perhaps it is because of how I was raised, but I feel like everyone needs a prominent matriarchal figure in their life. I was lucky enough to have several. And for that reason, while I’m curious about the what-ifs, I’m reluctant to say that I wish my life were different.

Of course, if it were possible to have both my mother in my life and still maintain such an incredibly strong bond with my aunts, I’d definitely hope for it to be that way. But I’m not so sure if it could ever be so. The reason I’m so close to my aunts is because they all made it their duty to step into the role of “mother.” Had my mother lived, I’m not so sure if my aunts and I would be as close.

This is not to say that I’m happy being motherless. I cannot count the number of awful, sappy poems I’ve written on the subject on days my feelings seem to completely swallow me. Rather, I think my perspective comes from the fact that the what-ifs are just what-ifs. I never allow them to be more than that. I could dream up infinite scenarios of the “perfect” family or the “perfect” life. But this, right now, is my reality and how I believe everything was meant to be.

But to my mother, if I could say anything, I’d say thank you. Thank you for life, and thank you for family. They’re truly a gift. Sure, it’s a gift that happened to come by way of a terrible situation. But it’s a gift nonetheless. Words cannot begin to explain just how beautiful of a thing I think that is. To my father, I’d say the same thing. And I’d also say thank you for trying so hard all the time. I notice it even when you don’t think I do. To my aunts and my grandmother, both here on earth and somewhere out in what’d I like to believe is heaven, know that I owe my whole world to you. You made me what I am.

For the past two weeks, I’ve struggled with what I would write for my next column. In fact, I did not know until just a few hours before I was supposed to send my next piece to my editor. Suddenly, the saying “It takes a village” popped into my head. And it stayed there until I wrote this. “Bama Rogue” is mostly about tradition and breaking away from that, breaking away into independence, but some traditions are necessary.

I cannot explain the sudden compulsion to write something so personal, except for maybe the fact that I am on the brink of adulthood, and I needed to say thanks to the people who made it possible. To friends and family members I didn’t mention, you too have had a lasting effect on me.

I am declaring such intimate sentiments in front of my peers and teachers because I’d like to say to the whole world that the “I’m sorry”s aren’t needed. Because, as you can see, my life rocks, and it needn’t be any other way.

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