When I was a child, the constant dialogue I had with my mother took the form of instruction: wash your hands, eat your carrots, look both ways before you step off the school bus. All else was in some way a teaching moment, like when I learned how to tell time, or asked what makes the leaves turn color in the fall.
The nature of our conversations shifted when I had something to offer in return. And by the time I was a ‘tween I could tell she enjoyed my company because she’d pick me up from school and take me with her on errands she could’ve done earlier in the day without me. I remember going shopping with her when she needed a new dress for a cousin’s wedding. And it was fun.
Once I was in high school, I’d come to know her not only as my mother, but also as a person. When we sat at the kitchen table sharing a pot of tea, she would tell me stories about her childhood or her courtship with my father. We’d often discuss a movie we’d seen or a current event. She’d want to know my opinion. And I could make her laugh.
I knew I was an adult when she began asking me for advice. At first it was about the menu for one of her dinner parties. Then she wanted my input on choosing new wallpaper. But it mattered most when she, as an only child, was the sole caregiver to her aging mother.
Despite living 200 miles apart, not a day goes by that we don’t speak on the phone. And we Skype every Sunday. Maybe my mother and I are unusually close, but I don’t think we’re such an oddity. Because when I look at the women I know – from every race and ethnic group, scattered across different regions of the country, spanning several generations – there’s often a common thread: the profoundly intimate relationship between mothers and daughters. And it’s not just because they are mother and daughter – it’s because they are friends.