She was eighteen, a freshman in college — pre-med. She had worked her ass off with little help from anyone to get into the prestigious college of her dreams. Her whole life was a string of perfect, fall-in-line, type-A decisions. She was prom queen, best smile, most likely to succeed. And then, she got pregnant with me.
Her path changed immediately, leaving some lifelong dreams in the rearview. She left school, married my dad, and became a mom. Thirty-seven years later, she is my very best friend. We have a sacred, unique, imperishable connection. There is something about a mother and daughter so close in age, growing up and learning together, that creates a bond like no other.
I have been attached to her since I can remember, often in a weird, hyper-dependent, over-entangled way. We are completely enmeshed — a product, maybe, of a nervous teenager figuring out how to parent while her child was learning how to live. As a kid I never left her side. She was my safety blanket, the only thing that made me feel calm.
At birthday parties, playdates, and organized activities she was never allowed to be more than a few feet away. In fifth grade my swim coach needed to change my lane, putting me with the kindergartners, so I could be close to the edge, where she was watching. In high school and college I reluctantly started to execute a little bit of independence, but always leaned on her for support and advice. She handled all of my drama so well, never trying to be cool, or overly relatable, always offering mature, honest, incredible advice.
We were so close, but she also always knew the boundary between mom and peer, even though she could have straddled it effortlessly, being so much younger than all of my friend’s moms. She was young and annoyingly hot. She so easily could’ve attempted to assimilate with my friends and me, especially in the high-school and college years. Instead, she stayed in her lane, wearing weird older lady sweaters, hanging out with women significantly older than her, and laying down the law at home. She knew it was important not to confuse me into thinking we were both in charge. She was thirty seven, the age I am now, and I was nineteen. The difference in our parenting experience blows my mind when I think about it.
For the last nine years I have been a mother, and her a grandmother. Now, with little need for any real child/parent boundaries at this phase in life, she is my ultimate ally and confidant. She is everything. It is in this phase where I think our closeness in age is such an incredible gift.
We text all day, usually starting a few minutes after we wake up. Conversations are the same as ones with friends: filled with sarcasm, inappropriate jokes, and pop culture-inspired gifs. She is my first call for advice, parenting or otherwise. She doesn’t judge, but offers helpful solutions and a listening, understanding ear. Very little is off limits when it comes to topics we discuss because like any best friend, boundaries don’t really exist.
She is my first choice for any girls-night-out activity. She is fun, interesting, and full of energy. She wears Hokas, rides the Peloton, and loves reality TV. We speak the same sarcastic, short-versed language, have the same humor, and understand the same references. We shop together, and she raids my closet before vacations and events. We go on long walks and vent about everything. There’s no generational disconnect or lack of understanding. And she rarely comes at me with how different things were when she was my age, because honestly, they weren’t.
There are some disadvantages too, though. There will be no time for me to enjoy any of the things she might leave to me in her will, since we will likely share a room at the nursing home. She can kick my ass in a workout class and look better than me at a wedding. And she’s a constant reminder of the exact relationship I want with my own daughters, but will never have because our age gap long spans that of my mother and I, which often leaves me feeling sad.
Having my own first child at twenty-eight and my fourth at thirty-seven means life will look much different when my daughters are my age. I likely will not have the kind of energy that my mother does now — the coolness, and the relevance. I will be older, more clueless, and less able.
But I'm hopeful that I can still forge an equally wonderful — if different — bond with them. Even if we can't share clothes, and I'm hopelessly uncool.
Samm Burnham Davidson is an ex-lawyer mom of four who swears a lot. She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts.