I push open her door 20 minutes before I am due to arrive and walk right into her house. I’m greeted by her elated dog who thinks we are going for a W- A -L-K, and her confused middle son. Literally one leg into his jeans.
I apologize to both, it is too dreary to walk. 48 and raining, and I am a total wimp/exercise avoider. And the boy who knows me well, was not expecting an intruder.
I was wondering why my mom was using the front door he explains.
He and I have a bit of an independent relationship, he teaches Oliver chess, and we have hung out and talked about Omnivores dilemna while rolling our eyes at his mothers organized single serve snack cabinet.
It was not always thus.
The first time I met her was at a coffee shop downtown. A mutual friend introduced her and I was my typical B-G-G self…with the B shining bright. After 5 minutes of boring small talk she went to excuse herself, saying her son was at home and was hungry. I questioned this. “He’s old enough to stay alone but not old enough to eat?” She, being the G-G-G that she is, only allowed a flicker of annoyance to cross her face.
“I’m worried about choking.”
I’m sure my judgement was easy to interpret.
We knew we would never be friends. I thought she was a control-o mom, she thought I was a bitch. And we were both right. But like everything else that wasnt the whole story. As I type this she has returned home from dropping off her daughter and is chuckling as she plays with something that makes fart noises. Amusing herself mightely. She is not interrupting me to make chit chat, but moving smoothly through the kithcen, re-setting the order. I wish she could do this at my house.
We managed to get over our initial judgement when our kids fell in love. It was just tiring to dislike each other when in fact we could like each other a lot.
So now we call each other on our shit. I with relish, she with care.
Friends who become like family.
In my college my chosen friend group felt more like family than my family. My roomate and I made plans to live together forever, even if we both married and had kids we figured we could play more card games, take turns heating up the velveeta for cheese dip, and leave notes on the table every morning.
Some work situation feel like family. Disfunctional mostly. I know from personal experience that restaurants, with long late hours, and a shift drink or two can turn coworkers into confidents.
Then there is your family of origin. For me a tight three that expanded during the summers to aunts and uncles and cousins, and aunts parents, and cousins cousins, and cousins, cousins, cousins.
As an only child I have always been obsessed by siblings and twins. Studying their similarities and differences as if they could reveal the secrets of the genetic code. These two like puzzles and have cowlicks. These might as well not be related. But they ARE, see!
In my family of origin intimacy is measured by mockery, something my mother still hasnt caught on to. Mom, if we are teasing you it means we love you. One of the most tragic impact of my father’s death is that I had no one to mercilessly tease my mother with. Happily her brother and nephews have stepped up to the task, providing a constant touch point for our own closeness at her expense.
Happy to return the favor I mock the g parents on the other side. They too are easy targets, and one of my cousin’s cousins has become more like a cousin due to our mutual appreciation for the oddities of the older generation.
Then we make our family, marry and birth them. And they are fascinating. His chin, my eyes, his patience my…impatience. I still truly cant believe my older son is my child. Oliver is NOTHING like me. Except maybe in his lack of coordination. One of those cape cod summers he was in the bath at about age three. It may in fact have been the last time he bathed. I was bored and there might have been music on, although that seems unlikely at my mothers house. So I danced by the tub. I caught his attention, and his gaze became a fascinated stare. I amped it up. Heaving with the effort of my entertainment I flopped to the floor and gave him a big grin. He was still staring.
“Dont EVER do that again mama.”
If you’ve ever seen him do “jumping jacks” you might understand our bond. So there is that. But his linear mind, ability to save money, and emotional unflappability are alien to me.
He is so unemotional in fact that he often couches his affection in words that are less demonstrative that certain other words.
Yesterday morning he caught my eye across the breakfast island. “I dove you mama.” “I dove you too Oliver.” “I dove dada.” “I dove dada too Oliver.” “I dove grandma.”
And there it is. Steves mother, sister and neice have been staying with us for 4 days to celebrate Leo’s birthday. Family- in – law might be the trickiest family of all. Oliver is asking me to say that I love Steve’s mother.
I cant think about this too long, but I feel my oversharing honesty crashing up against my desire for him to have an uncomplicated relationship with his grandma. The type he deserves and will certainly have without my mucking it up.
I have waited a beat too long.
“Do you dove grandma?” I turn on a smile. “Dada wouldnt have been here at all, or been the incredible man he is without grandma.”
He is satisfied. “You dove grandma.”
Dove isn’t the symbol of peace for nothing.
Time, teasing, talking, chosen, or fallen in your lap. What makes family for you?