Picture it: The Midwest, spring 2017, my mother's bedroom.
Every evening followed the same routine. We'd eat dinner together, our cats sitting nearby, and we'd laugh as we watched a few episodes of The Golden Girls. Little did I know that those 22-minute episodes would turn into my respite from the dreary world around me and make me see my relationship with my mother in a new light.
The similarities were striking: Sophia's husband (Dorothy's father) had died. My own father died in 2003. Dorothy was single and living with her mother. I'm single and live with my mother. Both Sophia and Dorothy were outspoken, especially with each other. Let's just say that my mom and I have never felt like we had to hide anything from each other.
I saw the relationship between Dorothy and her mother Sophia, and it reflected our relationship — the adult relationship I was finally starting to have with my own mother. It was no longer the relationship between that of a mother and her young child. It now more closely resembled a relationship of equals.
Sure, we'd watched the whole series before and laughed at the adventures of everyone's favorite ladies from Miami, but something felt different this time. It was like I was looking at the series through fresh eyes. Not as a child or young adult, but as a full-fledged adult.
I saw the relationship between Dorothy and her mother Sophia, and it reflected our relationship — the adult relationship I was finally starting to have with my own mother. It was no longer the relationship between that of a mother and her young child. It now more closely resembled a relationship of equals. Gone were the days of a mother hovering over her daughter, trying to exert dominance. Our relationship was blossoming into a solid friendship based on respect, love, and admiration. And for that, I couldn't be more grateful.
Stepping outside of those prescribed mother/daughter roles can be a tricky tango. Add in my disability, which has required additional dependence on my mother, and the situation can become an absolute minefield. From birth, we're taught that mothers are in charge, they know what's best, and daughters need to listen to them. Plus, it can be hard to see things from the other person's perspective sometimes.
I know that there were plenty of times in my life where I failed (OK, didn't even try!) to see things through my mother's eyes. It wasn't that I lacked compassion or that I didn't care about her — my age and stage of life just didn't make it easy for me to see where she was coming from. I'm sure there have been times when she's felt the same way about me, and that sort of frustration can cause conflict.
But thanks to The Golden Girls, I was able to see those mother/daughter dynamics play out between two adults.
I saw Sophia's love for her daughter, who she affectionately refers to as Pussycat, and how she always wanted what was best for her. It may not have come across that way, but she ever only had Dorothy's best interest at heart.
And on the flip side, I could fully identify with Dorothy, particularly since she struggled with the changing roles in her relationship with her mother. She saw herself become more of a caregiver than ever before and you could tell that she worried a lot about her mother. In the last few years — and especially since my father died — I've noticed my role changing a bit with my mother. I'm learning to navigate those waters of wanting to take care of her, yet still respecting her boundaries. At the very least, I have a new appreciation for what my mother must have gone through in raising me.
And a healthy friendship with your mother in adulthood? Dorothy showed me it's entirely possible.
For so long, I'd been growing increasingly self-conscious about the fact that I lived at home in my thirties at a time when so many of my friends were moving out on their own, establishing their own lives. But here's the thing I learned: Establishing your own life doesn't have to be synonymous with living on your own. You can have your own life and still choose to live with your family. The truth is, I enjoy spending time with my mom. I genuinely do. It's never something that feels forced or like it's just done out of familial obligation.
Both my mom and I have managed to carve out our own lives and still co-exist pretty peacefully. We've got it down to a symbiotic routine these days, and that's gone a long way toward erasing some of the hang-ups I once had about still living at home.
The two of us? We grew closer over some 177 episodes, through all of Sophia's hi-jinks and sarcastic comeback and Dorothy's never-ending drama with Stanley, her ex-husband who never really went away. I like to think my mom will also look back on this time we shared and smile.
I know I'll always thank her for being a friend.