This is the most recent picture that I have of my parents. It's from January when my sister came for a long weekend during the time that my best friend and his boyfriend were here. It's actually pretty surprising that I have a picture as recent as this, as my mom is not usually one to agree to pictures of herself.
Anyway...my parents. That's kind of a loaded topic, so I'll start with the easy stuff. My parents lived practically around the corner from each other in junior high and high school. My mom had a crush on my dad early on, but he didn't really know she existed. Well, maybe that's not entirely true. He knew of her, mostly because her older brother had a reputation and they knew many of the same kids. But they weren't friends nor did they hang out together directly. Anyway, in high school my dad was kind of popular for being pretty good looking and being in a car club. Plus, he was a nice guy as well. My mom had a serious crush on him by then, which only intensified as they began hanging out in the same group. The summer before their senior year, they got closer until finally my dad broke up with his current girlfriend for my mom. That was 1968 and they were married in 1971. I was born in 1974 with my twin sisters following in 1977. My mom was a stay-at-home mom during my childhood, but did start working part-time when I was about 10 or 11. My dad worked hard and also worked on the house and the cars. He is very handy when it comes to household repairs and projects, which meant that our house, although very modest, was always in great shape.
My view of my parents was very favorable until my teen years, when it all fell apart. When I was 13, I had a friend who was not ideal in my mom's eyes. She wasn't really a "bad" kid, but her home life was very different from mine. Her parents were divorced and she lived with her dad, who imposed very few rules on her. And I wanted to be able to do what she could, which was typically not okay with my parents. I pushed against my rules and my parents blamed my friend. This became an ongoing issue with my friends. My rules were always stricter and more restrictive than my friends rules, so I broke mine to be able to do what they were doing. As a result, my parents felt that my friends were the problem, when really it was my own decisions that got me in trouble. And just to put it in perspective, none of my friends did drugs or drank or broke the law, and neither did I. I broke curfew rules when I was supposed to be home by 8 and everyone else was out until 10 or later. I was always supposed to be home right after school, but my best friend and I would sit in front of the junior high school that was right around the corner from my house and talk until after dark when my mom would drive over and pick me up to go home.
My mom didn't like Shell when we were friends and when I not only came out to my parents but also broke the news that I was seeing Shell, the rules got stricter and I pushed harder. My mom knew that she couldn't stop us from seeing each other at school, but I was not allowed to see her outside of school or even talk to her on the phone. When summer started less than 2 months after we started dating, I think my mom thought that it would put enough distance between us to break us up. Instead, I pushed harder against the rules. One Saturday morning, I borrowed my parent's car to go to the swap meet. I was supposed to be home by 1:00. I wasn't at the swap meet for very long, so I picked up Shell and we went to a park. We talked and snuggled and as the afternoon wore on, knew that I'd be in serious trouble when I got home. We imagined what it would be like to just get in the car and drive away, to be together and start "our" life right then. And then we did, sort of. We drove to her house where she took all the money she had saved and we started driving north. We didn't talk to anyone we knew and nobody knew where we were for 3 weeks. We had spent a week in a small town in Northern California, thinking we could find jobs but nobody wanted to hire a teenager living in a motel, not surprisingly. When we ran out of money and were approaching the end of the period we had prepaid for at the motel, we decided to call a friend and ask her to send us some money. Instead, she called Shell's parents who jumped in their car and headed our direction. We had no choice but to follow them back and they made sure of it by never completely filling our gas tank or handing us any money at all. When we got back, I called my parents who informed me that they wanted the car back, but that I couldn't come home. While I was gone they had boxed up everything in my room and put it in storage. My sister, who had previously shared a room with her twin, had moved in and even painted the walls.
That incident led to a very strained relationship between my parents and I and I went from living with our traitorous friend, to staying for a while on my parents couch, to living with Shell until she graduated high school and we moved out with some friends. My dad helped me move my stuff from the storage unit to our apartment and even came by every once in a while, but my mom never did. She wanted nothing to do with Shell. After a year at that apartment, Shell and I moved into one of our own and soon after my parents announced that they were moving to Colorado and then not long after that my sister announced that she was pregnant. My mom and I started talking on the phone and I was invited over for dinner a few times, but just me. After my parents moved and my niece was born, we talked a lot more often and after I visited them a few times, we started comtemplating moving as well. My mom offered to let Shell and I live with them until we found jobs and a place of our own, which led to discussions about how Shell would be treated. In the end, we moved and lived with them for about 3 months and it wasn't too bad at all.
It's been over 15 years since we moved and my relationship with my dad is better than ever. We do things together that my mom has no interest in and I think that we both know that we can count on each other if necessary. My mom and I are sometimes hot and sometimes cold. Usually there are long periods of really good times and then we'll have a bump in the road that is followed by some tension and then more good. This last summer we had a really big issue that resulted in almost 4 months of no communication between us. I talked to and saw my dad a few times during it, but I didn't see or talk to my mom. We've settled back to the good stuff now, which is always a relief.
My relationship with my mom makes me ultra-aware of my relationship with my daughter and more than anything I want to prevent a repeat with her. She's approaching her teen years quickly and I'm determined to not make the same rash judgments that my mom did and hopefully not fall into the same pattern.