Personal Perspective: Natalia Mochernak

Feature Editor Natalia Mochernak seeks to answer a question posed by poet Mary Oliver as she explores the love formed between herself, her mother and her sister.

Like every good writer, I have decided to tackle my personal perspective by stealing someone else’s work, that of the lovely Mary Oliver in “Devotions:”

“On the beach, at dawn: 

three small stones clearly 

hugging each other. 

How many kinds of love 

might there be in the world, 

and how many formations might they make and who am I ever 

to imagine

I could know such a marvelous business?”

Good question, Mary. Who am I to say anything about love? Though I am armed with the wisdom of every rom-com known to man, it is probably true I don’t have anything revolutionary to add to the conversation. But still, I am going to attempt what every book, song and movie has tried to do because after all this is my personal perspective, so if it’s dull well oohoo. So, here’s me having a go—this is my ode to love. 

When I first read Mary’s poem, I immediately recognized the three small stones hugging each other. My greatest blessing has been the stones I have spent my life sandwiched between—my mother, Yuliya, and big sister, Tasia. 

My sister is nothing like me. She is brunette; I’m blonde. She’s a righty; I’m a lefty. Adores chocolate; hates it. Pixie cut; long hair. Organized; messy. She can shoe shop at Marshall’s for hours; I break down and sit on the cold floors in the first 10 minutes. 

Tasia is seven years older than me, so she sometimes tries to act like my mother. But then she tries to put me in a headlock and the illusion is broken; such is the life of the younger sibling. No one can do such a vast amount of things as perfectly as my sister, which is immeasurably annoying when I have to compete against her in anything, but ideal when I want her to crochet me a sweater or edit one of my essays. In true older sister fashion, she still reminds me of the many offenses I committed against her as a child, like a cupcake charm I “stole” from her (and promptly lost) when I was in kindergarten. And yet, one of the hardest things I have had to do is live 500 miles away from my sister. I would never admit it to her, but when she comes to visit, I feel like me. I feel complete. My sister and I are completely different, but she is my best friend. She is my protector, my mentor, my soulmate. 

It is just my mom and me in our house right now. Anyone who has met my mother immediately senses her immense gumption and courage; she is the strongest person I know. Often when people have faced such tribulations and developed a deep-seated and acute resiliency, they turn cold. My mom, on the other hand, is a fierce lover with the tenderest heart. She has shown me what it means to do even the smallest things with love — she takes daily walks through our neighborhood with a baggie of treats for dogs who pass by (she is their favorite, of course) and remembers the birthdays of everyone she meets. She makes each and every person around her feel as though they matter, as though they have something indescribably special about them. My mom has given me everything I could have ever dreamed of and more. 

One day I will have children of my own who I will make the world beautiful for as my mom has for me, and they too will forget my name and just call me mom. 

I truly believe that the bond we have between the three of us is magic if there is any. The best portion of my life has been the moments I have spent smiling with these women. They understand my heart as if they carry it within their bodies. They understand me because they are me. I am what they could have been and they are what I might be. We laugh in the same way, we hurt in the same way. We hide ourselves in the same way, remain unsure in the same way and criticize in the same way. When I cry about something, I know my mother has once cried about it, and my sister too. Our ice cream flavors and haircuts are different, but we swallow the same fears and hold the same dreams closest to our hearts. 

I know how to love because I love like my mother and sister. My love is theirs, and theirs is mine. I love you Tasia. I love you Mama. 

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