🎵 I’m singing too high tonight, I’m gonna lose my voice / I heard her on the radio, don’t want to sing along, but I’ve got no choice! 🎵
At first I was annoyed, “Mom!” I groaned. “Stooooop!” Typical teenager.
Her entire face lit up when she laughed, turning from pink to red with a glow that seemed to prove she was somehow magical – like Mrs. Santa Claus – unable to hide the twinkle in her eye when she was truly happy. She was just a bit mad herself, so it was impossible to stay mad at her as she started to swerve the car back and forth to the beat.
We were listening to a mixtape made by I don’t know who. The creator doesn’t matter as much as this single moment held in time.
Flipping through my homework, writing my name in the top corner of every paper with a final zig zag of the Z, my pencil drew a random line off the corner of the paper. She had zagged when I had zigged. I looked up and glared at her as best I could. I pushed out my lips and squinted my eyes, trying desperately to keep up my tragic teenage stereotype. Instead, a smile spread infectiously across my face as I shoved the papers in my bag, giving up on any sense of procrastinated organization to sing out loud with her.
I reminded her all the time, “Some kids would be embarrassed by a Mom like you ya know…” and this morning was no different as I rolled down the window to her seafoam green Ford Contour and yelled the lyrics out the window,
🎵 She used to be my girl but now she’s famous!
She used to be my girl but now she’s famous! 🎵
Pulling my head back into the car, I could hear her laughter above the scratch of the cassette tape in the car stereo. We must’ve replayed this song a thousand times this week alone.
🎵 No one will ever touch the way that I feel
Just for the record, she got the deal
I don’t want to hear it! 🎵
We lived alone. Just the two of us. On a cross country jaunt with his aging father, my dad received a phone call for a job offer. Two job offers in fact. It was one of those answers to desperate prayers as he had been out of work for nearly two years. That’s what brought us here, to a basement apartment 2/3 of the country away from where we had been living the last eight years. We were here to be close to his parents in a place we thought we might end up if all worked out. But prayers never work that way. Instead, he took a hard right and moved to Texas and we were to follow. The thing is, no one. had told me…yet.
I was the youngest of four children and it was safe to say that my dad and I had spent at least the last handful of years at odds. Extreme odds. You might even say we hated each other, but I don’t think either of us cared enough to put that kind of energy into it.
In those few, short years, life changed. My siblings all graduated, went to school, married, and moved out before I could even say that I survived the 7th grade. At that point, we stopped sitting down together for dinner. It was easy to assume that the obligation was no longer there when we were only half of a family, but it was more than that. My mom never argued. She never bickered about spending more time together. Instead, she prepared dinner in phases – allowing me to scrounge down enough food to fuel a professional athlete before my dad even sat down to the table. We were separated. It was easier that way.
So, it won’t take any great effort or imagination to know that moving to a small, dark apartment in a sorry excuse for a mountain town was hard on the both of us. There were a lot of slamming doors and insisted alone time. Once he was gone, he was happy. He had a job now. He could refuel that sense of being a caretaker, or whatever. Meanwhile, my mom and I were mucking it up to overplayed tracks on ska mixtapes.
With one-foot propping open the car door, I gathered my things before heading in for another day of school. And just before getting out of the car, we leaned in together, belting out some of the final lyrics,
🎵Well she’s like me, just not as ugly🎵
I’ll never forget the nights we’d chose to warm up frozen pizzas for dinner rather than cook anything remotely healthy, and during the five short minutes it took to crackle the crust, we’d dance circles around each other to the sounds of trumpeting punk rockers.
My mom cracked me up. I felt lucky. The woman I had grown up with and most of my life, knew nothing about. Now we had all the time in the world to spend together and she was as silly as ever. I felt like she was all mine. I knew her in a way that no one else knew her. I knew her in a way my dad had never known her.
Header image of Reel Big Fish live by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chadcooperphotos