A Canvas of Love

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Posted May 13, 2018 from Philippines
One of My Mother's Paintings
My Mother
My Mother (1/1)

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”- Donna Ball

As the world commemorates Mother's Day today, my mother celebrates her 59th birthday.

During her birthday thirty-six years ago, she was in labor inside her hospital room, awaiting the delivery of her firstborn. She was 23-years-old then. The following day, I was born.

As a child, it was a normal sight for me to see my mother's drawings on the pages of her notebooks (and even on the blank edges of books). Whenever there were projects in school that involved art, she was my lifesaver. 

My mother is fond of painting flowers, landscapes and faces. She learned different strokes and even the style of pointilism on her own. The walls of our house are filled with different hues of her water color artworks. Her creations were painted on used, ordinary coupon bonds. The moment a guest enters our front door, he/she is greeted by her works of art. 

My mother's creations are as colorful as her life.

Early in her parent's marriage, they decided to have three children. They bore three daughters, but none of them was my mother. 

Their youngest daughter died due to some complications in childbirth. My grandparents tried once more; my grandfather was expecting a boy. On the day of delivery, my mother arrived into the world breaking her father's desire to have a son.

When she was born, my mother was as small as an 8-ounce Coca Cola bottle. She appeared to be like a prematured baby although she was full term. While pregnant, my grandmother's womb was daily exposed to firewood heat when cooking rice cakes; her way of making ends meet. My grandfather thought the baby was about to die. But my grandmother was determined to let her youngest live. She prayed unceasingly and strengthened her faith. She formulated a bittergourd concuction to feed it to her baby. What seemed to be a miracle, my mother grew in size and reached a normal weight and height.

Growing up, my mother and her older sisters spent more days helping in the farm than attending classes.My grandfather believed it was unnecessary for his daughters to go to school since they will become housewives when they marry. Whenever there was an opportunity, my mother attended classes. Even with multiple absences, she excelled in all her subjects. She finished elementary at 18-years-old. 

She married my father at age 21, then finished high school two years later. She had two miscarriages before I was conceived, and another one after I was born. Her fifth and youngest child was born when she was in her 40s. 

I believe if my mother were given a chance to finish a degree and studied further, she would have been a great lawyer or a doctor. But she never made her lack of formal education defeat her. Instead, she hoarded books and read a lot. She armed herself with knowledge.  She delves into anatomy, health, nutrition and alternative/herbal medicines. She always has a ready immune system booster when a family member gets sick. She cultivates a garden of vegetables, and herbs so we can eat pesticides-free meals.

My mother continues to paint today, but her creativity is yet to be preserved on a set of canvas. It is our dream that one day she will have an exhibit of her masterpieces. However, she tells us that painting is her way to express herself, and does not aspire to be famous for it. It was her catharsis, her break from life's hardships.

Now that I am a mother, I empathize with her. I think about her a lot while I struggle to manage the daily demands of my two growing sons.

Motherhood, for me, is undoubtedly the most challenging job. 

It is true that we begin to appreciate our parents more when we become parents ourselves. In dealing with the mundane routinary details of motherhood, I value my mother more.

On those times I found her irritable, angry and short-tempered,  I failed to understand that aside from taking care of our needs, she was also dealing with physical pains, or hormonal changes, or emotional breakdowns, or depression. But she showed up and remained a mother, our problem solver, the best way she knows how. 

Today, I get it. 

Motherhood can be taxing and frustrating, but I learn to show up everyday whatever physical disturbances I feel. My sons deserve nothing less.

There are countless life lessons my mother passed on to me. She might be money-poor, but her guidance and advice will outlive her as I ride the roller-coaster journey called life. I can only hope I could convince her to paint on a canvass this time so we can immortalize her creativity. In a way, it is also immortalizing her. 

During my wedding, my groom and I chose one of my mother's paintings as a design for our invitation card and souvenir. We could have ordered a better set elsewhere, but it is our simple way of honoring her and at the same time, validating her gift. 

Mothers appreciate what seems to be lttle gestures of love.

I am grateful that my mother survived her early days on earth when there was a slim chance she could live. I am grateful for my late grandma for fighting for my mother's life. Without them, I would not even be writing this entry because without them, I will not be able to see this world.

We all get to live, laugh, love and learn in this life because of our mothers. And the mothers before them. Like every woman in this world, our mothers deserve to be loved, accepted, encouraged, valued, forgiven, and celebrated!

Mothers are the beautiful hues that complete a masterpiece on a beautiful canvas of love!

Happy Birthday to my dear mother!


Happy Mother's Day to all!

Comments 11

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Adeola Samuel
May 13, 2018
May 13, 2018

Kisses and plenty hugs sis, I'm touched and this really brings so much memories to me right now. Mothers are our guides, angels and 1st mentors. They deserve to be celebrated everyday.

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

Hello, Adeola,

Kisses and hugs to you and the mothers of your life. Thank you for reading.


May 14, 2018
May 14, 2018

Hi Karen,

Thanks for your lovely Mother's Day tribute message. Your mother sounds amazing, tenacious and very creative. I love your wedding invitation art, btw:) Have a great day!

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

Hello, Jill,

Thank you for reading. I cropped the photo and removed the wordings.

Have a great day, too!


May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

You're welcome, and thanks for the well wishes:-)

Beth Lacey
Feb 16
Feb 16

Hi, Karen. I so enjoy reading your stories

Hello, Beth,

Aww. Thank you so much for taking time to read my posts. It feels someone is listening. :)

Juliet Acom
Mar 05
Mar 05

Happy belated birthday to your mother and many more happy birthdays!

Aww. Thank you, Sister Juliet!

Jane Frances Mufua
Mar 06
Mar 06

I enjoyed reading your story

Thank you for taking time to read, Jane.