I anticipated meeting my man’s mother for the entire three-hour drive from New Jersey to Maryland. When we pulled up to her apartment building she was waiting for us on the sidewalk. I'd seen her in pictures but she looked smaller and softer in person. She'd just gotten home from yoga and was wearing leggings with a matching zip-up jacket. She wore her sand-colored hair in a kinky afro. Derek momentarily stepped out our rented, white Chrysler 200 to greet his mom.
She said hello to me through the driver side window and then, "You look like someone!" I didn't know who she was referencing. Derek had warned me that his mother was infamous for not having a filter and saying exactly what came to her mind at any given moment. I smiled politely while D simultaneously hugged and reprimanded his old lady. He got back in the car and we drove into the parking garage, unloaded our bags and met his mom at the building’s entrance.
"Hi! Michelle Sharpe," she said and gave me a big hug. Derek and I followed his mom to the elevator, marveling at the extravagance of the lobby along the way. Her apartment was a chic, one-bedroom outside Washington D.C. I immediately felt at home in the pristine space. A cream, leather, sectional couch with plush blankets and pillows stretched against two walls. Family photos, a cutout newspaper review of her book (about single motherhood), and an enlarged black and white photo of her and Muhammad Ali wrapped in an embrace decorated the walls of her bachelorette pad. She was undoubtedly accomplished.
"Wow, mom," Derek said, noting the charm and cushiness of her place. "I think this is the nicest spot I've seen you in." I could tell Ms. Sharpe was proud of her digs. She poured us wine and put the finishing touches on the dinner she'd been preparing: swordfish, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and grilled vegetables. We ditched the formality of the center island and bar stools for food trays and the couch. I listened to my lover and his mom reminisce about stories of his childhood. She welcomed me into her bedroom where she pulled out old art projects of Derek’s, including a portrait he made of her when he was in elementary school. My heart melted. When Derek took a phonecall on the balcony his mom and I were able to talk one on one. Michelle chatted me up about music, movies, and yoga. She even demonstrated a head stand against a wall for me. I was impressed. We were bonding and it made me feel closer to D, her only child.
We ate dark chocolate and ice cream before Ms. Sharpe walked us to a local bar. She was thoughtful enough to leave after a few minutes, giving us some alone time. She slyly handed her broke-ass son cash to buy us drinks. I couldn't believe how smoothly the night was going. Years of me feeling like this man was unattainable had led up to this simple yet meaningful night. I felt like a teenager again and it didn't end there.
We returned to the apartment to find his mom had set up the cutest sleep pallets on the couch for us. It was a dream. You couldn't tell me I wasn’t meant to be with that man, at least in that moment. In the morning his mama gently woke us up to say goodbye before leaving for work. I didn’t mind being awoken from my comfortable slumber to hug this sweet, nurturing woman. The sun poured in through her windows as she bent down to squeeze me. I felt so much love and I felt she was rooting for us as a couple.
Meeting Derek’s maker helped me see a future with him. Knowing who raised him made me fall more in love. I never saw his mom again after that D.C. trip. He returned home to Los Angeles shortly after his east coast visit and although I eventually moved there to be with him, our relationship ended months later, when I met someone more deserving of my time and energy. I'll always remember and appreciate his mom's warm, welcoming spirit.
*Names have been changed.*