By Léo Azambuja

Leo 1“Vitor! Cecile! Leonardo! Rafael!”

My mom’s trademark time-to-go-home war cry would echo all over the department store or supermarket to find us; always.

Yes, it embarrassed us every single time. And yes, this is the sequence we were born: First Vito, then Ceci, then me and finally Rafinha.

Today, I admit I miss it. I also miss my mom embarrassing us in front of retailers, friends, teachers and girlfriends, which happened on an almost-daily basis when we were growing up.

But what embarrassed me the most was something I did to her, and kept it a secret for nearly three decades.

I was 8 years old. My mom picked me up at school, and as we were walking back home I asked her if she could buy an encyclopedia a travelling salesman had shown us in science class. A bonus slide projector attached to the offer had me hooked.

She said “no.” Well, my habit of never taking “no” for an answer dates back to when I was in my mom’s womb, and I refused to be born. I had to be taken out via C-section — my mom’s only child to be born that way.

So I insisted and kept asking why, until my mom lost it. I didn’t really get beat up, but her yelling was always more hurtful than the occasional slaps on my butt.

When I arrived home, I ran to my room, mad as hell, and sat on top of my red rattan toy box.  I was so upset that, while sobbing, I cursed her and said I wanted her to go to hell.

For a kid attending Catholic school, it was the ultimate sin; to wish your own mother to perish in hell. I kept it a secret, and my shame haunted me for years, even after my religious views had changed and I had tossed out my belief in hell.

Every May, we celebrate Mothers’ Day. We shower our moms with gifts and take them out to a lavish brunch. But we really should think of Mothers’ Day as every day.

It may have taken both our parents to create us, but it was mom who carried us for nine months inside her womb, who breastfed us, and who likely spent the most amount of time with us during our early years.

We should tell them we love them whenever we have the opportunity. And we should let them know about things we regret.

About 10 years ago, my mom suffered a light stroke due to a calcified brain aneurism. Luckily, the only physical sequel she had was a crossed eye that corrected itself after years of physical therapy.

I don’t see my parents often. We keep connected through weekly phone calls and semi-annual visits.

A couple months after my mom’s stroke, I visited my family and was surprised to find out everyone would hug each other first thing in the morning. At first I thought it was awkward, even for a Brazilian who is used to greeting everyone with a kiss. My mom explained to me it was hug therapy following her brain aneurism, and it made a lot of sense.

I also took the opportunity to tell her about that one time I wished she’d gone to hell. It was a demon too big to keep.

She obviously laughed about it, but to me it was a big deal. Wishful thinking is powerful, and no one deserves to be in a better place than our mothers.

My mom is still alive and kicking at 71 years old. To be sure, she still embarrasses us on any opportunity she gets. And I don’t really mind it anymore — I actually anticipate it and enjoy laughing about it later.

Here’s my “Happy Mothers’ Day” shout out to her and to all mothers on Kaua‘i.