The way I remember it, I spent every summer afternoon of my childhood lying with my mother on her bed, soaking up the dying light that poured in from her bedroom window. We would exchange back scratches, resume the endless tickle war, talk. Most importantly, we would play “the funny face game,” my favorite. The premise of this game is simple: You make the funniest face possible, changing your expression if necessary, until your opponent laughs. Then it’s her turn to make you chuckle. The game goes back and forth like this until it’s dinner time.
As a child, I grew obsessed with the funny face game. Not because I was good at it, but because I loved making my momma laugh, and I loved laughing with her. She always crafted the most creative faces, contorting her brows, crossing her eyes, twisting her lips. My faces… lacked her versatility. So much so, in fact, that no matter how hard I tried to be original, I made the same expression every single turn. My trademark? Flaring my nostrils, widening my eyes, and hinging my top row of teeth over my bottom lip. I imagine I looked like a caricature of a horse.
Regardless of how many times I made this face, my mother broke down and laughed. She laughed because she’s my mom and she bears the blessing of unconditional love. She knew it would’ve hurt my feelings to hear that my funny face wasn’t funny at all; that it was, in reality, redundant. My mom let me go on believing that I ruled the funny face arena, and we continued like this for years, scowling, puckering, and in my case, horsing at one another in the soft glow of the summer sun.
These are the memories of my mother that I treasure the most. The small moments. The moments we seem to repeat in new ways over and over. Walks around the block at night. Debates at the dinner table. Silent mornings spent sipping coffee side by side. Over the years, my mom and I and have transcended the typical mother-daughter dynamic and grown to be best friends. Yes, we have hurt each other. But forgiveness finds us, usually in these moments when we’re doing familiar things together. For these moments, which remind us of our indivisible bond, have the most room for healing and reconciliation.
Looking ahead, I know we will create new routines as we adapt to the different directions our lives have taken. Separated by distance, those long walks may come less frequently, and the mornings upon which we wake together will be few. But luckily, the memory of those routines and the love they fostered will instill even more love into the future. The new traditions will take meaning and inspiration from the old. Continuing our life adventure together as mother and daughter, as two friends, we can only grow, learn, and laugh. It is an adventure that I look forward to with all my heart.
Eventually, years after the last funny face tournament, my mom told me the truth: I was terrible at the funny face game. She had let me win time and time again. Laughing, I asked her why she kept playing, why she didn’t tell me sooner. I don’t remember what she said.
But I think she kept playing for the same reason I did– love.