I entertained the notion for many years of writing the story of my mom and me, simply because our nontraditional, decidedly quirky, lifelong role-reversal friendship was unlike any mother-daughter relationship either of us had ever heard of (until Gilmore Girls, but that will come later in the book). I imagined a kind of collaboration between us at some point, where I would do the actual writing, but I’d verify certain facts with her that only she might know. The reminiscing would be a hoot, we’d laugh like we always did, and it would be fun to see what each of us remembered about those years of growing up together.
But that’s not the way it happened.
My mom, who was only sixteen years older than me and therefore someone I was certain I would have in my life much longer than most daughters had their mothers, got sick. And then we went on a pilgrimage to get her well naturally, and it seemed she got better. And then, in what felt like the cruelest twist, the better was only temporary. And then, in a whirlwind of disbelief and heartbreak and grace, she left me at only sixty-eight.
To be honest, I still can’t believe she is physically gone. We talked or texted nearly every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I smile easily when I think of her, but I tear up easily too. I shared both my exciting and seemingly mundane news with her, and she shared hers with me. We seamlessly rolled any of a number of favorite movie lines into almost every conversation, were as at ease with witty banter as we were with genuinely listening to one another and sharing opinions, and never ceased to crack each other up, be elated for each other’s triumphs, or offer empathy in the face of laments, whether significant or petty. Her absence is palpable, to say the least.
But in the writing of this book, she has remained particularly close to me. I’ve spent countless hours recalling the details of the fifty-one years we shared, which has meant bringing to the surface hilarity and heartache, disappointment and pride, separation and reunion, embarrassments and evolutions, all of which comprised the tapestry of our half-century together. Mostly, though, I have felt immense gratitude that I was brilliant enough to choose her as my mother in this lifetime, and that I willingly accepted, from my earliest days, being her touchstone.
Though most of my memories are pretty solid from the time I was old enough to walk, I admit that I may not have gotten every detail right from her perspective. Some things I simply couldn’t know for sure without having her here to confirm. But I think what matters is my recollection of the uniqueness of what we shared, of what people have told us over and over was a one-of-a-kind relationship they wished they’d had with their own mothers or daughters.
And I believe that’s what she has influenced as her stardust has surrounded, and indeed suffused, the writing of this book.
When I told a dear friend the title I had chosen for this memoir, she told me that she imagined other young mothers deriving hope when they saw it, that perhaps their unexpected little bundle was going to turn out just fine, even if they felt completely unprepared to raise a child. That was something I hadn’t thought of, but certainly something I hope is true. Though there are parts of my childhood that will likely shock you and make you wonder what my mom was thinking at times—and how I didn’t turn out completely different than I did—there are also numerous gems in my mom’s offbeat parenting style that are worth absorbing and embracing.
Yes, a lot of factors are involved in how a child turns out because of, or in spite of, the environments into which they are born—and there is no doubt that I had some of the greatest factors in my favor. My sincere hope is that you will be glad you got a peek into a truly special and uncommon relationship, no matter which parts resonate with you. And I hope, too, that if you shed a few tears along the way, the wacky repartee will balance them out.
My mom was a beautiful, hilarious, sarcastic, wounded, accepting, sincere, resilient, generous, loving ray of light.
I can’t wait for you to meet her.