Most girlfriends meet their boyfriend’s mother for the first time when he is on hand to manage things and perhaps mediate.
I had no such luck.
I was a young, exceedingly broke dancer living in New York my first year out of college. The boyfriend, still in school, was a good six hours away. The mother, who lived in Los Angeles, was coming to town. And she wanted to meet me. With or without him.
I arrived early and fidgeted for an hour at the bar of a fancy restaurant. I was terrified of the moment she’d show up. And terrified she wouldn’t show up. And terrified that if she did, I wouldn’t be able to pay for my share of dinner.
As it turned out, dinner was on her. Even better, I really liked her.
What’s not to like? She’s smart, funny, earthy: a former teen mom who raised five kids while publishing Soul, a black entertainment newspaper, and later ran the publicity department at SOLAR Records.
Soon I found myself calling to talk to Regina as much as I was calling to talk to her son, who moved back home briefly after graduation. Sometimes, when in town on business, she’d pick me up in a limo and take me somewhere fabulous, like backstage at Saturday Night Live. It seemed as if Regina were on a first-name basis with everyone—Michael (Jackson), Stevie (Wonder), Bill (Cosby)—but while she exposed me to the glamorous life, she also taught me not to take it seriously. Because she certainly didn’t.
When her son and I broke up a couple of years later (he’s a great guy, but I wasn’t ready to settle down), Regina told me, “You will always be my daughter.”
She’s been true to her word, becoming one of my dearest friends over more than 20 years, the one who will always tell me the truth about myself. She has talked me through breakups, bosses from hell, existential crises, my wedding, multiple miscarriages. So has my own mom, whom I adore. But the absence of the typical mother-daughter baggage has allowed Regina and me to have an entirely different kind of relationship. And as I’ve matured, I’ve tried to be there for her as well.
When I go to L.A., I almost always stay with Regina. She’s my touchstone. It’s a connection that her son (my ex) understands and my husband supports. A friend of my mother’s, who also knows Regina, once asked her how she knows my mom. Regina’s answer: “Actually, we’ve never met. But we share the same daughter.”
Not long ago, I learned that my mother and Regina would be attending the same event. With some trepidation, I asked each of them to look out for the other. Regina picked my mom out of the crowd long before they said hello; it was like looking at me, she said. And to my huge relief, my two mothers liked each other just fine.
TERESA WILTZ is the author of the memoir The Real America, published by SheBooks.net.
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