A little over a year ago, I was preparing to move into a new apartment. I had lived on my own before, but after a few setbacks I had to move back in with my parents to get back on my feet. However, the time had arrived for me to live on my own.
As I was preparing to exercise my independence and move into a separate living arrangement, people would ask me if I planned on getting a roommate. I live in an area of the country where rents are pretty steep, so it was a legitimate question. My response?
“There’s only one roommate I would ever want to live with, and she shared her womb with me.”
And while my sentiments were covered in humor, I meant every word. When I initially moved back home, what was supposed to be a stay for only a year turned into ten — the last three being with my mom, my youngest sister and I. And in those last three years that we lived together my mom became my road dog.
We’ve been through a lot together, JoJo (my mom’s family nickname) and I. Lots of ups, like my first day of school, her marriage to my dad (technically my stepfather, but he was my dad), my triumphs at gymnastics meets, surprise Valentine’s Day cards she left for me and my siblings, and a brother. (My sisters and I always wanted a baby brother. We got one. And he’s awesome.). On my 13th birthday, she played the song “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder for me, which was about Stevie’s daughter who has the same name as mine. And she took me for my first manicure.
There were challenges, too. My parents’ not-so-great separation and divorce. The loss of our home. My own divorce. My issues with past demons that manifested in an alcohol addiction. At the time that I limped back to my parents’ home in semi-defeat, I was newly sober, which was good, but still battered and bruised by life. My parents were back together, but the family was dealing with my dad’s alcohol addiction. He had demons too. And he never quite overcame them. My dad passed away from drinking.
He was the love of her life, and while my siblings and I all felt the pain of his loss, it seemed to run much deeper for my mom. But God works in mysterious and wonderful ways, and always manages to turn bad situations into something much better than we can imagine or expect.
A month or so before my dad died, I had approached my parents about leaving an unhealthy work situation and living with them rent-free for a time in order to finish college. I was unfocused academically when I first entered school, and so I left without graduating. The job I had years later when I re-entered college did not afford me the space to finish school in a timely manner while working. So, I laid out my plan for better opportunities — which included leaving my job & my income, presented it to my parents, and they agreed to support me. And my mom stuck to that support after my dad passed. So, it was her, my youngest sister, and me in our home.
And while my mom and I always were fairly close, we got even closer during those three years. We went through a significant growth spurt together. My mom was doing the hard work of navigating through grief from the loss of my dad, but was also experiencing a new life that didn’t center around someone else’s addiction. I was embarking on a period of doing the hard work of finishing college, but it was amazing to re-experience the stimulating world of an academic environment.
And we hung out together. A lot. I started running, and my mom was there for practically every race that I did — including those that took place out of town. She cheered me on at my undergrad graduation, and then my grad school graduation. We went out to dinner, took trips into the City (New York City for you out-of-towners), saw plays, attended yoga classes, and went to movies and events together on a regular basis.
We did life together in a way that we never did before — as companions who truly enjoyed each other’s company. I had just as much fun hanging out with my mom as I did with any of my peers. And still do.
Recently, I entered and got into the Chicago marathon. A friend was supposed to join me on the trip. When they backed out, I was disappointed, and I figured I was doing the race alone. But Mommy. She asked if she could go — which I emphatically said yes to, booked a flight and a hotel room immediately, and was there waiting for me at the finish line in Chicago when I crossed. I was limping back to my mom again, but this time out of triumph. A victory for both of us.
JoJo is incredibly intelligent, beautiful, classy, strong, and is the best example of fidelity that I’ve ever seen. She loves quietly, but very deeply and intentionally. She will stick by you when you’re whiny, when you’re hangry, and when you’re losing it because your life seems like a mess. She also has a wicked sense of humor and has been known to use colorful language. She is fun.
My mom is the only roommate (ok…outside of a boyfriend or husband) that I would ever want.
My mom is my road dog.