Call Me Little Edie
Four years ago, I moved to New York from Northeast Ohio—and two months later my mom made the same move. For the first two years, we were roommates, sharing two different two-bedroom apartments in upper Manhattan. Two years ago when I moved to Brooklyn, she stayed in our Harlem apartment and a new roommate moved into my room. Last week, I moved back to that Harlem brownstone, but into a studio apartment one floor below my mom.
I'm living alone for the first time in my life, and it's already even more wonderful than I imagined it would be. I knew moving was the right step for me for many reasons—the price is right, I love the neighborhood, my morning commute has improved, the noise and exhaust from living right on Flatbush Avenue was killing me, most of my friends live in Manhattan—but I was nervous about one thing: being neighbors with my mom.
I was nervous not because my mom is terrible—she's great, actually—but because ever since we moved to New York I've felt defensive about dispelling the notion that I'm an adult woman who needs my mom. I have no idea how or why this idea first rooted itself in my brain, but no matter how much I try to shake it, it still creeps up from time to time.
It logically makes no sense—I'm about to be 32 years old and I've had a job since I was 15. I lived on campus while I went to college and then moved into a house with a boyfriend for five years after that. I've grocery shopped and hosted Thanksgivings and had three car loans. I've secured several jobs, paid off my student loans early and found our first New York apartment. I've navigated complicated medical issues, traveled internationally and I go to the dentist religiously. I don't have everything figured out of course—thinking about planning for retirement makes my head spin—but all things considered I think I'm a pretty competent and independent adult.
I like to joke that my mom isn't like a regular mom—she's a cool mom!—but that's actually true. She's funny and smart and generous. Sometimes she drives me crazy temporarily, but in addition to basically sharing a face (something everyone points out), we're very similar people. I genuinely enjoy hanging out with her and we're mostly interested in the same things. We love diners, dachshunds in clothes, silly roadside attractions, serial killers, thrift stores and anything bizarre.
So why do I worry about how people perceive our relationship? She doesn't pay my rent or excessively interfere in my life and I know I don't need my mom to survive as a functioning adult—which should be all that matters. I always knew I was being silly, but insecurities aren't rational and irrational thinking patterns are not easy to reverse. I knew that moving so close to my mom again would reignite some weird feelings that were mostly dormant while I lived in Brooklyn, but I'm trying to finally grow past them.
It's only been a week, but so far having my mom as my neighbor has been great. She bought me dollar store pizzas on the day I moved in because she knew I didn't have any food, and when I realized I didn't yet have a way to make coffee, I just went upstairs for a cup. We went to IKEA on Sunday, shared a car service back to Harlem and comically struggled with heavy boxes that neither of us would have been capable of carrying on our own. Accepting (and enjoying) these small perks doesn't mean that I'm any less capable of providing for myself—it just means that I'm lucky and privileged to have a thoughtful (and quiet!) neighbor, to whom I just happen to be related.