My relationship with my mother has never been better. It's gotten better over time.
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 pegged as EWF fans. Jim from accounting and his ultra conservative wife, Skater Guy and his bleached blonde girlfriend, an elderly set of hippies in tie-dyed T-shirts and Birkenstocks. They all came on out to create a collective of randomness.
There was another, more important person there I never would’ve expected: my mommy. 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. The tickets were her gift for Mother’s Day last year. Even the thought of going together was a sign of our new 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 at beefing. Rappers have nothing on what used to go down in the Harris household.
Not every girl is drafted into a period of combat with their mama. My best friend and her mother have been close without incident for as long as I’ve known them. But alas, me and the senior Miss Harris weren’t cut from that kind of happy-go-lucky cloth. 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. Anything 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 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 in the morning and don’t want to piledrive innocent bystanders with my mouth funk. She is a bona fide country girl straight outta Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania (find that on a map) and although I appreciate my family’s rural roots, I’m a cab-hailing, public transportation-riding, wake-up-to-somebody’s-car-alarm-in-the-morning city chick.
Even the commonalities that Mommy and I share are a reason why we couldn’t just get along. We are both incredibly strong-willed and fiery in our opinions (yes, I get it from my mama). And because I didn’t have any siblings or a father to act as a buffer, our disagreements ran unchecked. My mom also struggled with undiagnosed depression for much of my tween through young adult years, and that made everyday like tiptoeing through a field of hornet’s nests. What kind of mood she would be in when she came home from work. What would tick her off and how ticked would she get. What I needed to not bring up because I knew it would ultimately lead to an upheaval. I wasn’t a bad kid, but my common sense didn’t always kick into high gear and that irked her to no end. On the flip side, I wanted her approval something fierce but was intimidated by her at the same time.
I can’t pinpoint when me and Mommy started getting along, but I know I wasn’t living at home anymore. She missed me — that much was obvious — but she also started rooting for and supporting me, which was something I never really felt like she had been doing when I was with her. My biggest critic had suddenly become my loudest cheerleader, and it’s only gotten more enthusiastic as I’ve gotten older. Now I’ll call her for no reason a couple of times a week and we’ll laugh and talk like homegirls. (Only one of us can still tell the other one what to do.)
My grandparents have got to be slapping each other high fives and hip-bumping one another up in heaven. My grandmother, who always had to play referee, bless her heart, used to tell me that we would get along one day. And though I loved my Nana ferociously, I thought she was dreaming a big, fluffy dream on that one. 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 visited on Christmas and Easter. Chile please. I’ve probably been home at least twice a month since I moved out six years ago, and I live an hour and a half away from my mama.
Now I’m a mother myself to — what else? — a spirited, sassy 13-year-old girl. I remember vividly what it was like to be her, so I stay conscious of being open and receptive to her so she doesn’t see me as an adversary instead of an advocate. Plus 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.