My Mom called me this afternoon and asked if she could interview me for class. "It's a piece on welfare abuse. Could I ask you a few questions?" I was honestly flattered she wanted to interview me, and since I was spending my day in one of Brett's old work shirts, drinking coffee and youtubing cat and baby videos, I was grateful for a bit of brain stimulation. "I think I can make some time this afternoon." I said carefully, because I never like to make myself appear too available. "Or in 5 minutes. Whatever you prefer."
My Mom sighed deeply. "I'll call you in 5 minutes."
I stretched my legs, refilled my cup and 5 minutes later my phone rang. I didn't answer because I was still putting sugar in my coffee. My phone rang again and I picked it up and sang out a long 'hellooooooooo!' She wasn't pleased.
"Where in the hell did you go in 5 minutes?"
It was my turn to sigh as I licked a crust of sugar off the end of my mug. "Mom. I am a very busy and important person. I can't tell you where I was. It's top secret."
"You're a jerk."
"Well, I'm feeling like you are not being a very professional interviewer right now."
"Melissa Beth!" she cried, exasperated. "Ok, fine. Interview starts now."
"Mom? Are you going to ask me any questions?"
"What do you think I should ask? I don't know how to interview people. I'm a nursing student. You're the writer. Just come up with some questions and then answer them for me. Let me grab a pen..."
"Soooo, you want me to interview myself?"
"You've never had a problem talking before."
"Wow. I'm really surprised CNN hasn't hired you to be a hard hitting journalist. Your skills are amazing."
"FINE. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WELFARE ABUSE?"
I took a long pause, slurping my coffee into the phone as I pondered her question. Finally, choosing my words carefully, I offered: "It's bad."
She declared the interview was over.
Before you think I am a total and heartless bitch, I actually love my Mom very much and we laughed about the "interview" on the phone for a long time. We're barely 19 years apart, and I know that the way we interact is hard for some people to wrap their minds around. The first time I brought Brett home he looked on in wide eyed- horror as my Mom and I traded zings across the table. In my family, calling someone "a little shit" is a way of saying you really, really love someone. Cooking my family a big dinner one night I dropped a pan on the floor, badly burning it. My Mom has not fixed the burn, instead fondly pointing to it and calling it the time "Melissa ruined everything." Fuck the pictures of me on the walls. That's my real mark.
About an hour or so later I found myself at my in-laws for Sunday dinner and 7-loads-of-laundry-because-it's-free night. We all cooked together, meaning I read the Sunday funnies out loud while drinking wine at the table as they cooked. Tonight I was amazed at how natural it has come to feel hanging with my in-laws alone. I've always loved them, don't get me wrong, but they were always, intrinsically, his. In marriage sometimes the lines are drawn. You love the other side, but not as much. You fight in hushed whispers over where to spend holidays, who to vacation with, etc. Luckily, we haven't had a marriage like that, but as fond as I was of my in-laws they didn't actually feel like mine until Brett moved away.
And then here I was, stretched out on their rug, cuddling their dog as they made me a delicious dinner.
Reverting to childhood much?
Over dinner as we laughed and ate and enjoyed one another, they both gave me some pretty huge compliments that made my face go all weird. I never, ever know what to do when someone says something about me that is truly kind. The first time Brett told me he loved me my face turned to gummy and I think I looked like I had a stroke on the left side or something.
Tonight, my in-laws basically gave me a thumbs up about where I am in my future career and who I may be becoming as a woman. They even complimented my skin, which was great because I had spent all night in a gay bar and was struggling to conceal a giant stamp of a bunny on my right wrist. It was just...nice to hear that I'm doing ok. I'll admit that I need vocal affirmation once and awhile. I'm not a robot. I need to hear that I am loved, liked, ok, doing well, exfoliating properly. It's a basic human need, and as long as I don't indulge it unhealthily, it's normal.
They may not be super jazzed that I insist on being a writer, and my Mom may not be thrilled that she has such a sarcastic daughter- but they claim me and love me, and it felt really wonderful to be someone's kid tonight.
There are times I demand to be taken seriously, and I wear heels and pearls and I'm bitchy and efficient and tired, tired, tired. So it was great to check in with the ones that sustain me while Brett is away...and let them parent.
My Mom ended up staying on the phone with me long after our very successful Katie Couric-style interview. She read my newest blog out loud to me on the phone and had to stop several times because she was laughing so hard. (To be fair, my Mom laughs at everything, so I'm not claiming to be the next Tina Fey or anything, ok?) Hearing her laugh through the phone, I actually started to cry a little bit from happiness. I was sitting in a slant of sunlight. I was wrapped in beloved cotton and had a delicious cup of coffee in my hands. Someone that loves me was laughing over something I had created.
It was a pretty perfect moment.
Today I was more than a wife. I was a daughter.
I can't forget that that is where I started...and will always, always be.