Last summer, I went to Earth, Wind & Fire’s 40th
anniversary concert. I knew when I bought the tickets that I was going
to offer myself up as a background vocalist and showgirl right from my
seat. I mean, come on—it’s Earth, Wind & Fire. “Emotions,”
“Fantasy,” “Let’s Groove,” “Boogie Wonderland” Earth, Wind & Fire.
That’s a guaranteed party.
There were people in my section I would’ve never pinned as EWF fans. Jim from accounting, Skater Guy Bill, the lady who frowns at you when you have too many items at the express checkout. They all came on out. There was another, more important person there I never would’ve expected: my mommy. And she was right next to me, hollering out all the lyrics like Phillip Bailey was going to call her onstage for a job well done.
I bought the tickets as a gift
for her, but even the thought of going together was a sign of our new,
fabulous relationship, the best thing we never used to have. From the
time I passed into the 6th grade until I moved out of her house as a 20-something woman, my mother and I were masters of conflict.
There’s a special place reserved in chaos just for mothers and daughters. I don’t know what it is about that certain age when, all of a sudden, we go from wanting to be like her to just wanting her to leave us alone. Maybe I shouldn’t generalize. Not every girl is drafted into a period of combat with their mamas. But we went toe-to-toe about everything. Laundry loads, social issues, how tight I was braiding my daughter’s hair, who left the cap off the ketchup. Any subject, no matter how seemingly trivial, was good enough to be argued about.
For one, we are classic opposites, me and my mom: she, ever the level-headed, always-on-time, clear-thinking rationalizer and me, her only child, the book smart but super flighty, head-in-the-clouds big dreamer. She is, for the most part, shy and introverted, and I’m only quiet if I haven’t brushed my teeth yet and don’t want to piledrive innocent bystanders in the morning. She’s a bona fide country girl and I’m a public transportation-riding, wake-up-to-somebody’s-car-alarm-in-the-morning city chick.
Even the commonalities that Mommy and I shared were a reason why we couldn’t just get along. We are both incredibly strong-willed and fiery in our opinions. And because I didn’t have any brothers or sisters or a father to act as a buffer, our disagreements were wild. Now that I’m a mother myself, I can only imagine how hurt she must’ve been.
I can’t pinpoint when we started getting along, but I know I wasn’t living at home anymore. It was like she became a different person once my address changed. She was calmer, more receptive to me being me instead of who she thought I should be. Little things didn’t tick her off like they did when I was under her roof. She missed me—that much was obvious—but she was rooting for and supporting me, which was something I never really felt like she had been doing before. My biggest critic had suddenly become my loudest cheerleader.
Now I’ll call her for no reason a couple of times a week and we’ll laugh and talk. It’s amazing, this transition we’ve made. My grandparents have got to be slapping each other high fives and hip-bumping one another up in heaven. They used to promise that once I got older, my relationship with my mom would get better. I accepted their enthusiasm, but I had made a firm decision that once I was gone, I was gone. I was going to be one of those children who only visits on Christmas and Easter.
Puh-lease. I’ve probably been home at least twice a month since I moved out five years ago, and I live an hour and a half away from my mother.
My own Girl Child is 13 now, and I remember vividly what it was like to be in her spot. I stay conscious of being open and receptive to her so she doesn’t see me as an adversary instead of an advocate. But we, too, are a work in progress. I hope, somewhere in the future, we’ll be dancing and acting the fool together up in somebody’s concert too, just like old friends.
Has your relationship with your mother gotten better now that you’re grown? Or because you’re a mom now, too?