Monday, June 24, 2024

My mom and I live on different continents, but we’re closer than ever. We text every day and FaceTime every weekend.

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It’s 11 a.m. on a Sunday and I’ve just gotten out of bed and made my coffee when the familiar ringing sound of my iPhone begins. It’s my mom calling me on FaceTime, like she does every Sunday morning. I accept the call. Her face, the one that is so much like mine, fills my iPhone screen.

“Hi baby! Are you having your coffee?” she asks, already knowing the answer. This is a ritual. This is a routine. We talk every single Sunday morning at the exact same time — 11 a.m. in Brooklyn, New York, and 5 p.m. in Port Alfred, South Africa.


Demi Drew and her mother in 2020 in the Brooklyn Bridge.

Demi Drew and her mother walked the Brooklyn Bridge in 2020 together.

Courtesy Demi Drew



I’ve lived 9,000 miles away from my mom for 7 years

I was 22 years old when I moved from South Africa to New York in 2017, and my biggest fear wasn’t the culture shock that inevitably awaited me, or attempting to navigate the subway system, or even how I would settle down in a home that was so different to the one I’d grown up in.

My biggest fear was leaving my mom — the woman who had raised me as a single parent, whose encouragement and unwavering support was the reason I was stepping foot on this transatlantic flight to begin with.

Moving abroad meant that I had no idea when I would see my mom again. There was no reunion in the near future to look forward to, no marked date on a calendar. As I said goodbye to her at the airport, before walking through security, we both held onto the hope that we’d see each other soon without knowing when that would be.


Demi Drew and her mother in 2017 in Grand Central Terminal.

Demi Drew’s mother visited her in New York for the first time in 2017 and they visited Grand Central Terminal.

Courtesy Demi Drew



I’ve only seen her 3 times since I moved

In seven years, I’ve seen my mom three times. Collectively, I’ve spent six weeks with her the entire time I’ve lived abroad. But no matter the distance, maintaining our close relationship is a priority for me, as is finding new ways to spend time together.

The biggest adjustment was going through major life milestones and not having my mom experience them with me, instead watching my life advance through a screen. I remember having my heart broken for the very first time, sobbing hysterically to my mom on FaceTime and being unable to hug her. When an article I wrote was published by a well-known publication, my mom sent me many congratulatory texts telling me how proud she was of me. All I wanted was to celebrate with her over our favorite bottle of wine. Sometimes, in both happy and sad times, you just need your mom.

It still happens now, when I’m sick and wish she could take care of me, when I’m stressed about work and don’t know how to navigate a tough situation, or when I’m dating someone new and desperately wish they could meet my mom — the best and most important person in my life.


Demi Drew and her mother in Central Park in 2022

Demi Drew organized a professional photo shoot with her mother in Central Park in 2022.

Photo credit: Mauricio Merino



I actually appreciate her more now

Despite the 9,000 miles that separate us, my mom and I are closer than ever.

There is nothing that occurs in my daily life that she doesn’t know about. We text each other throughout the day, FaceTime every weekend, watch Netflix shows together, read the same books, and participate in each other’s lives as if only a few short miles stand between us.

When I lived at home, I was never intentional about the time I spent with my mom because she was always accessible to me, but that changed when I moved abroad. She was no longer someone whose physical company I could enjoy, and taking that for granted is something I will always regret.

Finding ways to connect with my mom and the life she lives in South Africa means being intentional with my time and how I choose to spend it. I want to feel close to the woman who birthed me, and living on different continents doesn’t change how much she means to me or how much I love her. I’d argue it makes me appreciate her even more. We live separate lives, but we will forever be intertwined.

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