My mom and I had what I assumed was a typical mother-daughter relationship. We got along, argued, laughed, and cried, it just depended on the day. After the divorce, my mom leaned on me more than normal mothers would, as I realized later in life. Constantly referring to me as her best friend, which was wonderful, until I did realize that I was not only her best friend, but I had become one of her only friends.
As I grew up, I began to grow apart from her, forging friendships, my relationship with Jake, my love for Jake’s family, which all meant spending more time away from home. That’s when things really began to turn for the worst.
When I left the house my mom would continue to sit on the couch and watch movies accompanied by her wine. Coming home was always a gamble on who would be approaching me at the door, or sitting on the couch. There were only two options.. My mother could either want to hear about my evening, smiling and happy to spend time with me, or she would be angry beginning to explain everything that I had done wrong, saying I didn’t love her, how much of a bitch I was, how I needed to lose weight, how mysterious it was the people liked me. When the second side of my mom came out I would retreat to either our home gym to work out, or my bedroom
As my relationship with Jake continued and grew stronger, so did my relationship and time with Jake’s family. I soaked up every moment of time with his family that I could. They really were the Twilight Zone family to me. It was always dinner around the table, catching up with each other, laughter, and love.
Jake never came to my house to spend time with my family, except for when he took care of Jack. Before we left I cleaned the house the best I could and did all the dishes. I didn’t think he remembered what it looked like all those years before when he visited, but if he did the house then was much different.. I was embarrassed for him to come over.. My house was dusty, dirty dishes lined the kitchen counter as they overfilled the sink (when I hadn’t had time to get to them), dinner would be take out of some kind eaten on the dirty couch while the tv had some show or movie on, all the blinds were closed and the lights off, there was no talking to disturb the movie. It was the exact opposite of the clean, brightly lit and full of love environment that Jake’s house had.
Because of this, I spent my weekend evenings at Jake’s house consistently and my mom felt the distance growing between us. It took no time for this tension to become full time.
When I asked if I could go to Jake’s house for the evening, or to a hockey game, or a movie, it was routinely followed by a yes and then anger upon my return.
I became accustomed to the new normal, but it only became more vicious as time went on.
It was after one of Jake’s hockey games when my mom’s comments began having a visible effect on me (other than my arms).
As Jake dove and slide saving every goal he could, I was in the stands sitting alongside his friends I had met at the first hockey game we went to together, Jessica the beautiful blonde and Holly, his gorgeous brunette ex. Jessica’s boyfriend Matthew was on the hockey team with Jake along with their friend Justin. It was another woven connection the five of them shared that suddenly I was part of. As I sat next to Holly, I compared every part of myself and her. She was kind and funny and never once made me feel uncomfortable, but my lack of self confidence was overriding everything she was doing. Her hair was shinier than mine, she put on what looked like no makeup but had the perfect face, she was skinny, she understood hockey, she knew everyone that walked by us, and everyone was excited to see her. No one knew me, I was still working on understanding make up (albeit no longer orange) and my body was just what I was given, never forgetting the love handles that my mom pointed, or the weight so began to routinely mention, I was learning hockey still but my knowledge was so small that really I was simply mimicking cheers from Jessica and Holly. I was an outsider being allowed into this beautiful wonderful friendship. They never treated me as an outsider, but no part of me seemed to fit in. I was transported back to being an awkward preteen when I was around anyone other than Jake and his family.
The game ended and the three of us waited as they tried to bring me into the conversation but my insecurity and social anxiety made my interaction limited, at best. I would laugh and try to make comments, but I knew I was coming off as if I didn’t care what they had to say. I did, I just didn’t know how to act around them. All I wanted was for Jake to come back. When he was around I could be myself. His presence gave me a sense of calm and confidence that was painful to be away from. After an eternity of 30 minutes passed the boys came out of the locker room and joined us. Jake slid his arm around my waist pulling me into a hug.
“Good game!” I nuzzled myself into him.
“Thanks baby.” He bent down to kiss me as I pushed myself onto my toes. “Ready to go?”
Jake made the rounds hugging his friends and saying goodbyes. I smiled and said goodbye to everyone from the exact spot I had been standing. Slinging his gigantic hockey bag over his shoulder Jake grabbed my hand and directed me towards the exit and to his truck. Jake threw his hockey bag in the truck bed and walked me to the passenger side of his car opening my door for me. I slid in and watched as he made his way around the truck and got into his seat.
“Great game! You played really well.”
Jake started the engine, turned on the country music we both loved, and put the car in gear.
I had my feet scrunched in front of me on the dashboard, one hand out the window, as we both sang along to music on the radio. I looked over at his and above his head I saw a picture that I hadn’t noticed before. The picture of me in Paris was right there in his visor looking down at him as he drove.
While we sang at the top of our lungs and laughed with each other, I keep sneaking glances at my picture. I couldn’t believe he had put it in his truck like he wanted to. The ultimate declaration of love I thought to myself. It was the perfect evening, until I got home.