July 11, 2009

Ultimate Summer of our Discontent

My office faces east to our backyard. From my window, I see woods adjacent to our property and placid, tree-lined West Lake across the street. Every afternoon since May a white-tailed doe and her fawn runs from the lake to the woods. In May, the mama deer pushed through the yard with baby right behind her, so very close. In May, he was tiny like the cartoon Bambi, with cute white spots all over and his little tail rising up.

As the summer progressed, the baby grew and the distance between the two animals was getting greater. The fawn has been wandering farther from his mama and going off in his own direction. Mama Deer stands at the forest’s edge and looks back lovingly and longingly at her charge. I see the concern in her eyes, and I know what she is feeling and thinking.

“Time for that smelly, hairy beast to go back to college!”

This has been a long summer for the unemployed writer and her unemployed writer son. In case you are wondering the precise number of days it takes for parents and teens to get sick of each other, the answer is sixty-two days.

That’s just about the time Son started thinking about going back to school and his language became peppered with statements like, “Our library here doesn’t have as good of a selection as my school where I can find any esoteric book I want in five minutes or less.” Esoteric book? That’s why we’re sending him to college?

While we’ve had some great times together – including a wonderful visit to Gettysburg’s battlefields , the new Star-Spangled Banner Exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and more than one “hoggy-piggy time” at Coldstone Creamery, there was one minute when I thought, “It’s time for a new college year.”

Wednesday night Son played Ultimate Frisbee with his friends as he does twice a week.

Husband was at work, and I was hypnotized by yet another mind numbing cable show about Sarah Palin or Michael Jackson or North Korea invading my personal computer or whatever.

A sharp clap of thunder followed by lightning signaled that a summer thunderstorm was close. Within five minutes rain was pouring from a black and yellow sky.

When Son is at college, I do not know what the weather is doing there. And honestly, I do not think about it that much. This is an amazing paradox for a parent who worries about everything, and sobbed openly when dropping him off freshman year. Worry is a part of the DNA of parenting.

The stronger the storm became, the more I worried.

By now I was watching the Weather Channel (cable heaven for nerds) and a record number of lightning strikes was showing over our region. Was Son standing in the middle of the soccer field just waiting to be struck down? Did he know enough to come out of the rain? Or was he driving in a blinding rainstorm along a hilly country road with tree limbs blowing on the hood of the car like Dorothy
Gale running to that Kansas farmhouse?

Work with me here, people. Do you not see how having this ongoing wicked imaginative dialogue constantly running in my head is a problem for my Son? Son is a highly responsible wonderful young man with consistantly good judgment. It's just his mother who is crazy.

I called Son on his cell phone. He did not answer. Now I am imagining him in his soaked t-shirt and cargo shorts, standing defiantly like Moses in the middle of the field, “Lightning, rain, thunder, be damned!”

Second cell phone call. Now I am a little over the top.

Son answers, “Why are you calling me, I’m driving.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m okay, I have to go now as I have to take my friend home.”

He did know to come out of the rain. Eventually.

I know Son is as normal as the nine or ten other teenage boys who were also playing in the rain. Ten minutes later, he was home, out of his rain-soaked clothing, and comfortable in his Dr. Pepper logo pants and a fresh T-shirt when Dad walked in from work. Like nothing ever happened.

Guess I should keep my mouth shut from now on and just stay out of his life, or least not vocalize my worry. Bambi’s mother didn't have such a good ending in that story. Quoth the raven.