It’s funny how all it takes sometimes is a smile, a feeling, and the words falling out of your mouth to make you feel like you’re a teenager again, standing with your back against the tall radiator in the doorway of the pantry, talking to your mom while she does the dishes at the sink.
I spent so many evenings like that, talking to my mom about boys and friends and problems and hopes and the silly little early days of a crush. She was patient and kind and generous and listened and listened and listened some more until her ears probably felt like they were going to fall off. (I know this because my oldest daughter is only eleven and the days haven’t started when she talks and talks and talks about boys, but if it’s anything about how she talks and talks and talks about inventions, boy am I in trouble.)
I don’t talk as much often about the guys I date. For one, I don’t date all that often. I’m happy on my own, with this little life I’ve created (and keep creating) for my girls and I. My nest is cozy. I don’t need a relationship to make it feel full. But I go on dates. Lots of first dates. Not so many second ones. I’m careful with who I let in. I’m carefuller still about what I choose to say about those adventures. Part of the reason is that, hello – I’m a single mom and my daughters are almost nine and eleven and I don’t know what I’m doing; how to go about a healthy atmosphere of dating that won’t mess their little selves up. (Yes, yes – file under: parenting, general and constant fears.) Part of it, too, is that despite all of my blurting and writing and oversharing, there are pieces I find hard to open up about. And part of it is that I tippy-toes believe in jinxes. Oh, yes, capital-J Jinxes.
This doesn’t mean that my mom feels the same reservations that I do. She asks nearly every time we talk whether I’m dating someone. It’s been years since I’ve given her much hope on that front, but she likes some good entertainment as much as the next mom, and so the eternal question: Are you dating anyone?
It doesn’t bother me. I know she isn’t asking because she wants or needs a “yes” any more than I do. She was very clear when she was raising us that she didn’t want or expect us to be dependent on a partner. Do as she said, not as she did; don’t make the same mistakes. Follow our hearts, but also our brains. So I knew there was absolutely zero judgement behind the questions, and doesn’t that make all the difference in the world?
Which is maybe how I found myself smiling into the phone long before I maybe would have normally confessed. There is a guy. Maybe. Sort of. It’s still in the very early stages, but I wanted to give my mom the small gift of something different to talk about, to think about, to laugh over. I thought I was doing it to change up her afternoon, and yet as I sat telling her about who he was and how we had met and the few dates we had been on (dates! plural!), all I could think about was standing at the radiator, figuring out my feelings with my mum as my sounding board. Fifteen-hundred miles, twenty-plus years and one larger-than-life degenerative neuro-muscular disease later, and my mom is still a sneaky mama-ninja out-maneuvering me and being exactly who I need her to be.
Who knows how this particular dating adventure will turn out. It’s fun and new and exciting, and maybe, possibly, sort of has some shiny potential shimmering around the edges…but that might all wink out of existence next week or next month or six months from now.
But that mama superpower of moms being moms forever, world without end amen? That’s not going anywhere no matter how much time has gone by or how old the mamas and daughters might be.