I look at my phone. Sigh involuntarily. Because it’s one of those series of texts.
I miss you, she says. Everyone else bores me.
She proceeds to insult or tear down every other person in her life, pointing out what she perceives to be their flaws. This person is too boring. This one is too self-absorbed.
She tells me she misses our time together. Going out shopping.
She tells me that I’m the most interesting one. That she has the most fun with me of any of them.
She gave me her blessing a decade ago when I told her I was moving to Ohio. “Go, go,” she said. “Go have an adventure.”
I think she thought I’d be back in Maine after a year. A lot of my Maine friends predicted that I would. That was a more familiar story, leaving Maine and being forced to return.
Unless you left for college — and you went to Boston — you were coming home. No waiting until you were nearly 30 to leave home. And no going someplace that far away, like Ohio.
But I did stay away. And ended up moving even farther away earlier this year, to Texas.
The One With All the Gumption
“You always were the one with all the gumption,” she told me on her last visit to Ohio a few years ago, while we were sitting in the car waiting for my Dad to finish an appointment.
“I was just being me,” I replied.
“You gave me the happiest and the saddest moments in my life as a mother. There was no in-between with you,” she said. “But you… you were always fun.”
It occurred to me then that memory had been kind to her. Kinder to her that it had been to me. She didn’t remember all the times we warred. Or the juvenile tricks she’d play to keep me in my place (things like slipping raw hamburger into my food just to see my horrified reaction).
She remembered going to the mall and getting new sweaters. Stopping by McDonald’s on the way home and sending me down to the roadside dumpster in the dark to quickly throw away the bags before my father would see them and complain that we hadn’t picked up anything for him.
And I’m sure in addition to these cherrypicked memories that she also remembered a lot of other stuff she saw in movies that didn’t actually happen.
Once Upon a Time, I Was the Family Embarrassment
She wouldn’t remember how hard it was for me to always be crashing at friends’ houses or staying with other relatives because she screamed at me, called me “devil spawn” for writing strange poems in notebooks I kept under my bed (and which she always seemed to find, read, and misunderstand).
Because she called me a slut for eating lunch with kids she didn’t like, because their parents didn’t live in nice enough houses or their skin was the wrong color for her.
She wouldn’t know that I’d much rather be in the same place every night, a place where I was mostly left alone, given a few inches of breathing room.
She rarely asked questions. Never really listened when you answered her, or when you said anything in conversation, always preparing herself for the next thing she was going to say.
I’m Your Favorite Person — But Only When I’m Not Acting Like Me
She didn’t seem to register the fact that if we both spoke what was actually on our minds that each of us would constantly find the other offensive.
Somewhere along the way, as I grew older, I got more adept at being silent when she’d offended me and I became excellent at not speaking things aloud that I knew would offend her.
And it was at that point that she fell in love with me, with my company.
Looking over her texts, I want to tell her now, “Yes, I do believe I am your favorite person — but only when I’m not acting like me.”
But I know that’s not allowed within the rules of our relationship. So I ask her instead about her recipe for clam chowder.
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