“I’m a little bit sad,” my son used to say to me when he was three. “I miss my Tatie.”
And by Tatie he meant his best friend Katie who he’d just seen the day before. Or maybe an hour before.
“It’s okay, buddy,” I’d tell him, giving him a hug. “We’ll see Katie soon.”
My son would say this often about Katie when he wasn’t with her and my husband and I found this adorable. “I’m a little bit sad,” became vernacular for us.
“I’m a little bit sad Alias isn’t on anymore,” my husband would say as he was flipping channels after the show ended because of his crush on Jennifer Garner.
“I’m a lot a bit sad,” I’d tell him because it was Alias that introduced me to my forever #1 boyfriend Bradley Cooper.
Or, “I’m a little bit sad we’re not going to Italy this summer,” I’d say as we pulled the camping gear out of the shed for our yearly vacation.
“You’re going to be a little bit sad for a lot of summers,” he’d joke.
To us, “I’m a little bit sad,” was funny. A reminder of our sweet and sensitive toddler.
But Jennifer Garner doesn’t play college students anymore. Now she plays middle aged moms.
And we still don’t get to go to Italy this summer, but we also haven’t gone on a family camping trip in a really long time.
Because while still sweet and sensitive (a little), my son is not a toddler anymore. He graduated from college two weeks ago. Today he starts a five month engineering internship 375 miles away that will likely lead to a job. And even though he’s been away at school for four years it’s different this time. Permanent.
And I’m so happy for him and so proud of him. Happier and prouder than I’ve ever been.
But also, as he drove away a tear unexpectedly rolled down my face.
Marley turns 18 today. My last born child. My daughter. My baby. My love.
I’ve been thinking about this piece for a while. How do I express my overwhelming and undying love for this amazing, strong, independent, brilliant, beautiful, free-spirited, unique girl? No. Woman.
I wonder of course how it got here so quickly. How the long early days of motherhood I never thought would end could so suddenly turn into years that were over in the blink of an eye. And even more importantly I wonder, “Did I do enough? Was I the best mother I could be for her?” I tried (I really did), but I’m not sure the answer is yes.
The story I tell most often about her is about a time I was putting her to bed after an especially difficult day when she was three-and-a-half. “We had a really hard day today. What happened?” I asked her.
“Well,” she said to me, “that’s because you wanted me to do what you wanted me to do. And what Dad wanted me to do. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do what I wanted to do.”
And that is when I knew it was over for me. How could I possibly be a good enough mother to this strong-willed contrarian, who is by far the smartest person in the house at the age of three-and-a-half? I mean, sure. A lot of three-and-a-half year olds probably feel this way, but how many can actually express it at that age?
Yes, she is my challenge. But oh how I love her for this – her spirit. Her strength. Her I’m-right-you’re-wrong-take-no-prisoners attitude (okay, maybe I don’t always love that). Many of the things about her that make her hard to parent are the very things about her that will make her an awesome adult. I’ve said (many times) more than once, “She’s going to be an amazing adult if we make it through her teenage years.” And look, we did! (At least the hard part.) She is officially an awesome, amazing adult.
She’d make a great writer if she wanted to be a writer. (Please don’t be a writer, Marley. It’s so torturous.) I’ve been looking through an old journal to find some of the things she’s said and found these: One night when she was eight and I was putting her in the bath she said to me, “I feel as tired as a baseball that’s been thrown a thousand times.” Another time she had just brushed her hair and said, “I brushed out that rat’s nest, but the rat fought.” (Okay, maybe she should be a writer.)
She fights for the underdog. Her heart bleeds for the under-represented. She stands up for what she believes in. She will not back down. When she was 16 she organized a protest march making me more proud than I’ve ever been. She cannot wait until November so she can finally vote.
She is direct. Intense. She’ll tell you exactly what she thinks. And yet, she has a sweetness that doesn’t just touch my heart, it grabs onto it hard, making it feel like it just might explode. She tells me to come look at the sunset when it’s especially beautiful. She sends me funny texts. She always thanks me for dinner, for giving her a ride (before she could drive herself), for buying her something unexpected.
She is smart. Oh, so smart. And I know that’s something everyone says about their kids, but truly. She is smarter than me (by far). Smarter than her father (who, ask anyone who knows him, is a really smart guy). And smarter than her brother (who is currently attending Berkeley). When something interests her, she knows everything about it. When she applies herself there is no limit to what she can do.
She is tenacious. (And yes, stubborn.) When she wants something she digs her heels in and will not back down. (See above in difficult-to-parent child becomes awesome adult.)
She is quick-witted and funny and sarcastic. (Unlike me who is slow-witted and funny and sarcastic.) When she was a toddler instead of saying the word ‘hilarious’ she would say ‘the larriest’. (That’s the larriest!). The larriest is forever in our family vernacular. (A friend of mine says I should trademark it.) I hope that I have taught her the importance of laughter, because I truly do believe it is the best medicine.
She loves music and appreciates the heart-piercing beauty of a perfect lyric. She told me that her goal for the year is to go to one concert a month. That melted my music-loving heart. (Maybe I have been a good enough mother.)
They say be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. I wished for a daughter and I got Marley. And I thank the universe for letting me be her mother. How wonderful to be challenged, to look at the world from a different perspective, to know someone so special, so unique.
Happy 18th Birthday, Marley. I love you to the moon and back times infinity.
I sit at my writers’ group on Saturday night with my third (or maybe it’s my fourth) glass of wine in my hand and feel so lucky to be int this group of smart, funny, kind women who happen to be great writers. They encourage me and hold me accountable and don’t judge me. We laugh and cry and commiserate and tell each other our triumphs and heartaches and fears. I look forward to our meeting every month. I know that the next morning I will write “Writers’s group” in my happiness journal for Saturday, February 10th.
A little after midnight I receive a text from Dave asking if I’ve heard from Marley yet. She’s at a concert downtown at the Shrine and she said she’d text us on the way home. We knew it would run late, but it seems too late. I tell him I’ll come home and wait up for her.
Rina lives down the street and Dave dropped us off so we could take a Lyft home, but Kim only had one glass of wine and even though she lives in the opposite direction she says she’ll give us a ride. Julie’s husband dropped her off too, installing Uber in her phone so she can get home that way. Kim offers to drive her home too, but she declines, saying she lives too far (all the way in Thousand Oaks). We tell her Lyft is better and she promises to download Lyft next time. We tell her to text us when she gets home.
Marley’s phone goes straight to voicemail and she does not answer texts or Facetime. I’m not quite worried. Yet. But I’m tired and want to go to bed. Marley calls at 12:44. She’s sorry! No service! She can’t believe how late the show went. They are on their way home, but might stop for a quick bite to eat once they get in the Valley. I tell her fine, as long as they go through the drive through.
I sit on the couch with the dog snuggled next to me and try to read my book , but it makes me too sleepy, so I scroll through Instagram the blue light from my cell phone keeping me semi-alert. Julie group texts to thank Laurel for a lovely evening and to let us know that she is home safe and her Uber cherry has been popped. I let them know that Marley is on her way home. Drunk “I love you” texts circle around. I try to doze off but don’t really and Marley walks through the door at 1:45. She had fun and I’m happy that live music gives her the same thrill it gives me. Since it’s technically Sunday, maybe I’ll hold onto that feeling for my Sunday happiness journal entry.
Sunday morning I wake up late, but not nearly late enough. I’m lucky that too much wine and cheese and not nearly enough sleep did not net me a hangover. I have a cup of coffee and make toast out of the Trader Joe’s beer bread I made for dinner Friday night and chat with Dave. I’m meeting my mom at Costco at 10:00, but have to run errands first so I need to get moving. I go to Bed Bath & Beyond for hairspray, mascara, and a nail file, using my $5 off $15 coupon. I text my mom and ask if we can meet at 10:15. I didn’t get going quite as early as I’d meant to and I’m running late as usual. Then I head to Target with a return and pick up cedar balls and store brand peanut butter for the dog’s Kong. Small, but necessary suburban errands.
We take our time and Costco and buy too much and chat in the parking lot after loading up our cars as our frozen items grow warm. I don’t get home until almost noon. I put the groceries away, make myself some tuna, and start some laundry. At 1:00 I insist Marley wake up. I spend the rest of the day on the laundry, organizing papers and filing, getting my tax documents together for my appointment with our accountant on Thursday. Sunday busy work.
Rina and Kim and I have been texting throughout the day. Rina has clothes she had put aside for a clothing swap that Kim and I went to a couple of weeks ago that Rina was unable to attend and wants us to come over and look at them before she donates them. We were supposed to go over at 4:30 but she is stuck at a birthday party and it’s looking like 5:00. Too late, I say. I need to start dinner. Maybe another night? Kim calls me at 4:59. “I’m coming over to get you. I’m already on my way. I need to cross this off my list. It will only take a few minutes.” I inform my family I’m being kidnapped and dinner will be a bit later and head out the door.
We go through Rina’s clothes quickly. Rina’s family is going to a friend’s for dinner at 5:30. Kim has been hiking all day and still needs to make her Sunday trip to the market. And I have to make dinner. But it doesn’t feel rushed. It feels nice to be with my friends, even briefly. A quick reprieve from the busyness of a Sunday evening. Again I feel lucky. To live in a Shangri-La at the northern most end of Los Angeles. To spend a Sunday doing mundane and ordinary, yet useful things.
I go home and Dave and Marley are watching TV and I smell popcorn, their hunger unable to wait for my late dinner. After a dinner of roasted chicken, roasted cauliflower, green beans and rice, we all clean up and then I walk the dog. I choose “new country” on Pandora and decide to do a two and a half mile loop. Dave and Marley want to watch something that doesn’t interest me, so I retreat to the bedroom to read my book. It’s only 8:00, but I put on my pajamas and snuggle into bed early at the end my my ordinary Sunday in the suburbs. I am content.
What will I write in my happiness journal for Sunday? All of it.
Go to the gym for a 5:30 class or write. (Translation: go to the gym or fuck around on the internet while doing everything in my power to avoid writing.)
Take Marley to school. (She has zero period and her first class starts at 7AM.)
Take the dog on a two and a half mile walk.
Get ready for work and be at work by 9AM (ish). (I’m really supposed to be there at 8ish.)
But on Monday I wanted to be at work early, so I walked at 6:00 during my workout/fuck around on the internet writing time instead of after dropping Marley off at school. And then I remembered that is was finals week. Finals week has a different schedule and the kids go to school later. What time did Marley have to be at school?
We did talk about finals the night before and whether or not Marley was prepared (she swore she was, but I never saw her crack a book over the weekend), but we never talked about what time school started. Or we started to, but never finished the conversation. We must have gotten distracted by a squirrel or something.
I stopped mid-walk and tried to find the schedule on my phone, but either the school’s mobile app doesn’t have that information, or I’m not mobile app savvy enough to figure out how to find it in the middle of a dog walk when it’s freezing outside (45 degrees – BRRR!), so I texted Marley, whose morning routine is to get up at 6:00, grab her cellphone off the kitchen table (because we make her turn it in at 10:00 at night so she can go on her iPad or laptop or whatever and roll her eyes at how stupid we are to think that we are helping her go to sleep at a decent hour by taking away her phone), go back to bed until 6:40, where she takes all of ten minutes to get ready for school so I can drive her, to see if she knew what time finals started. But since she goes back to sleep she didn’t answer.
So I texted my friend Kim because even though her kids aren’t in high school, she’s the Communication Coordinator for the school district, plus she gets up early to actually write, so I figured she’d have access to that information.
So I was right that is was finals week. But finals didn’t start until Wednesday. And on Wednesday morning when I banged on her door at 6:50AM because she hadn’t come out and was going to be late, she yelled from the other side that her final didn’t start until 7:40 so she was still sleeping.
Even though I swear on Tuesday night (keeping the Monday morning debacle in mind) I asked her what time her first final was. She told me that she thought it was at the regular time, but she would check. She must have checked, but she never told me. And I should have remembered and confirmed, but I must have been distracted by a squirrel. Or something.
So I guess it’s me that’s the unorganized mess. And in five months she’ll be eighteen. I’m not sure she stands a chance.
I considered just posting a picture of my children to explain why I marched in the Women’s March on Saturday, January 21st. No words. Just a picture. Mic drop and done.
But I promised Chandler I wouldn’t post pictures of him on my blog anymore. He doesn’t like it.
And besides, I marched for so much more.
Yes, I marched for my daughter, but I also marched for all women: for our reproductive rights, for the ability to remain in control of our bodies. For equal pay for equal work. I marched because we have elected a president who has repeatedly made derogatory remarks about women and that is not okay.
Yes, I marched for my son, an environmental major in college, who hopes to someday be a lawyer for the EPA, and fears there will no longer be one. But I also marched for every other person in this country, on this planet. We all deserve clean water, clean air and a sustainable place to live. I marched for my future grandchildren (if I should be so lucky), everyone’s future grandchildren, and future generations we will never meet. We are killing our planet. Climate change is real. Inconvenient truths are still truths and ignoring them will not make them go away, and will surely make them worse.
I marched for the LGBTQ community who are afraid of a scary vice president. If he believes their “gay can be prayed away,” how can he consider their rights legitimate? How can he serve them?
I marched for immigrants, for people of color, for the disabled – for every group that feels marginalized. Bigotry and exclusion do not make this country great.
I marched because you cannot take health insurance away from 20 million people without replacing it. (And by saying you will replace it with “something better” without having a plan as to what that “something better” is, is not replacing it.)
I marched in the name of peace. And because love always, always, always trumps hate.
I marched because there is strength in numbers. I marched to let the president, the vice president, the senate, and the congress know that they work for us. Our voices matter and they need to listen.
I marched in the Women’s March on Saturday, January 21, 2017 for my children. For women. For men. For me. For you. For everyone. And like so many, I’m just getting started.
I cried the night of the election, but I haven’t written about it. I didn’t post one thing on Facebook. I haven’t even tweeted.
“Trump apparently thinks the P in EPA stands for pollution instead of protection” recently sat in my little tweet box for hours when Scott Pruitt was announced as Trump’s pick to head the EPA, but I hit delete instead of post. (Also considered: “Trump does things bigly: Why just fuck the U.S. when you can fuck the entire planet. #ScottPruitt”) But I just didn’t have the energy to fight the trolls. #failure
But my daughter? My amazing, brilliant, wonderful daughter? The exact opposite. From day one she hit the ground running with posts on Facebook about her bitter disappointment in America’s choice in someone who ran a campaign wrought with bigotry (not to mention choosing a vice president who thinks you can pray-the-gay-away).
But first she came out (literally) with this post on November 9th:
“Hey guys. I need to tell you something. This isn’t shocking at all (i hope), but i wanna officially come out as pansexual. if you don’t know what that means, there are a few definitions to explain it, but mine is a very popular one. basically, I’m attracted to people based off of their intellectual ability and personality. I mean by that is, I don’t really care about what a person sexes or the person’s gender is or whatever they are on the outside. I care about who they are as a person and how they make me feel and how I make them feel and how we just are together I find that more important and much better than how somebody looks over they are on the inside.”
Man, that was hard for me to post. Not because my daughter is pansexual. We’ve always told our children (and meant it), that we don’t care what their sexual orientation is, as long as they’re happy. But did you see those grammatical errors? The lack of capitalization! “Sexes” instead of “sex is.” Frightening!
A few days after the election she came to me and told me that she contacted the LA LGBT center and wanted to organize a march to Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in protest of the election.
“The LGBT center said they’d totally help me and it will take a couple of weeks to plan, so I was thinking December 3rd,” she told me.
“We’re busy on the 3rd,” I told her. “But I guess the 10th would work.” I admired her passion and intensity, but to be honest she’s intense about everything, so I really didn’t think much about it.
She posted the protest as a Facebook event: LGBTQ Protest Against Pence/Trump. She made it very clear that her protest was peaceful and “That we are not going to let these racist, homophobic, bigoted people hurt us.”
Within a few days over 500 people showed interest and over 100 people said they were going. And I have to admit I was pretty impressed, but still. A Facebook event? “100 people going” means 10 will show up. Maybe. It’s a busy time of year full of parties and commitments (plus there was probably a 10 hour sale going on at Macy’s).
And then it started to snowball. Bigly. A week before the event it was shared with over 5,000 people, over 4,000 showed interest, and over 1,000 people said they were going. Someone from ABC news reached out to her. It was getting real.
(Oh shit, I was actually going to have to give up my Saturday.)
“How many people do you think will show up for this thing?” I asked Dave.
“It could be 10, it could be 500. I really don’t know,” he answered,
And even though there had been many family discussions about it I said, “I don’t even know what we’re going to do. I know she wants to march from Hollywood and Vine to his star on Hollywood and Highland, but then what? Is there some sort of chant? Do we all just hang out there? And what if it gets violent? I mean, what do we do?”
He just sort of shrugged and admitted he was as clueless as I was.
At dinner that night we started talking logistics. Where to park. What exactly would happen. How cool it was that Marley was contacted by ABC. And then she just sort of shut down. “I don’t even know what I’m doing,” she said. “Probably no one is going to show up. I don’t even want to do it anymore.” Anxiety was getting the best of her.
And even though a bonus Saturday in December would have been lovely gift to this unorganized mom who was nowhere near done with her Christmas shopping (and Macy’s was probably having a sale), I said, “It will be awesome. Even if it’s just us, we’ll have our signs and we’ll march. You’re standing up for what you believe in.” But, I have to admit I was a little worried.
It turns out I didn’t need to be. Because this girl? My daughter? The one who can barely get her shit together for school? She was on it. Organized. She freaking rocked it.
The night before the march things started to go wrong, but she handled each road block like a pro and received support from other activists and the police.
First the trolls came out saying awful, hurtful things. (To a sixteen year old! As if their First Lady-Elect’s “fight against cyber bullying” wasn’t ironic enough.) But a lovely man named Ian who’d been to his share of protests, reached out to her and told her she was awesome and told her that trolls were just that: trolls. He messaged back and forth with her all night and gave advice and peace of mind.
She received an alert that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was premiering at the Pantages Theatre, directly across the street from the Hollywood and Vine Metro station where the march was starting and that much of Hollywood Boulevard was shut down. She and Dave looked at a map and she posted a new route for the march.
She asked the woman at ABC if they would be there and was told that the producer passed on the story, so no. Whatevs! #Sad (I actually think she was relieved.)
A community relations officer from the LAPD got in touch with her and told her that the LAPD supported her 1st Amendment rights and wanted to help to make sure that the protest was peaceful. Marley made a plan to meet with an officer before the protest and a car would shadow us as we marched our route. (This made Dave and I relieved.)
We took the Metro to the Hollywood and Vine station and got there about an hour early, not knowing what to expect. Marley and the co-president of her high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club met with the police officers and Dave and I stayed back, continuing to let her take charge. She was alerted that there was a pro-Trump group at Trump’s star. A photo journalist introduced himself to Marley when she was done talking to the police. We still didn’t know if anyone would show and had a lot of time so Dave and I decided to take a fast walk to check out the road closures. (I could write a whole blog post about that – let’s just say there were multiple metal detectors and check points and there was a tented red carpet that two blocks long. Star Wars knows how to throw a party!)
After about 15 minutes Marley texted me: Mom come back.
We rushed back there were about 40 or so people who had started gathering. The W Hotel (which sits at the entrance of the Metro station) told Marley that her group had to gather on the sidewalk because they were on private property. This meant going through a metal detector. Ian (who is about my age and is beautiful inside and out) found Marley and thanked her, cheered her, and introduced her to all of his friends. The group began to grow. Ian encouraged Marley to give a speech.
Marley gave a wonderful speech and then her friend gave one. We passed out extra posters the girls made, came up with a few chants, and we started to march. By now the group had grown to about 150 people. As we marched people started honking their horns in support and people walking down the street high-fived us. A couple who was looking for us joined up mid-route. A cute boy at a bar on Hollywood said, “I was hoping to get a cocktail first,” gave up his plans for refreshment and jumped in the march. When we got to the star there were others waiting. We chanted, took lots of pictures, and Marley had a civil conversation with the pro-Trump people. By the end of the protest it looked like there were over 200 people supporting Marley’s cause.
There was documentary filmmaker named Jordan Roberts waiting for us and she interviewed Marley and her friend, and Dave and I as well. People cheered Marley, asked to take selfies with her, and everyone thanked her. Her protest was peaceful and she felt like her voice was heard.
And this mom? The one who didn’t even have it in her to make a Facebook post about it? I have never, ever been more proud.
Photo Credit of Marley at the rally: Susan Forrest via Facebook
When Chandler was in first grade he liked to write books called The Adventures of Super Dog and Super Turtle. He would draw pictures of a dog and a turtle with capes and write stories about them. It was freaking adorable.
“Hey, Mom,” he said to me. “Let’s have a book making party for spring break.”
“A book making party?”
“Yes, we’ll invite all my friends and we’ll make books.”
“Do you mean your whole class?” I asked.
“No, just the boys,” he told me.
Just the boys. Great.
But I am a writer. And maybe my son would grow up to be a writer too. Who was I to discourage such a party?
“Sure,” I told him, “that sounds like fun.”
And so we invited all the boys in his class (as well as a few more from some other classes) over for a book making party. I think there were 40 of them. Or maybe it was 15. It seemed like 40, because as luck would have it, it was raining. (Thank you El Niño!) You have never seen 40 (or 15) mothers drop their kids off faster, looking forward to having three hours of bliss, after having to entertain their kids for half a week during a rainy spring break. They were practically hydroplaning down the street, perhaps afraid if they didn’t get away fast enough I’d change my mind.
One of the mothers took pity on me and stayed to help. I think I cried tears of joy, got down on my knees and kissed her feet in gratitude, but I’m still not sure I adequately expressed my deep and sincere level of gratitude.
I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t remember much about this party. I don’t know if that’s because it was 13 years ago or because the experience was so traumatic it’s been blocked from my memory (or a combination of both), but I do remember this:
It takes 40 (or 15) boys about 5 minutes to make a book.
40 (or 15) boys do not want to calmly and quietly watch a video for the remaining 2 hours and 55 minutes of a book making party.
40 (or 15) boys trapped inside a house on a rainy day are easily bored, incredibly loud, and very messy.
I know I say this all the time and it is so (so, so) cliche, but I really can’t believe so much time has passed so quickly (a lot more quickly than that party). How it simultaneously seems like so long ago and just yesterday. (Trust me when I say I can’t remember much about yesterday either.)
Chandler went to Myrtle Beach with his track team last week for his first college spring break. I hope he made some wonderful memories.
Memories that years in the future will become blurry with time, yet at the same time seem like only yesterday.
Marley and I were running errands recently and since she won’t let me listen to country music while she’s in the car we were listening to the pop station 104.3 My FM when the song Marvin Gaye by Charlie Puth featuring Meghan Trainor came on the radio and I started singing along.
Marley scrunched up her face and said, “What are these lyrics? What does that mean?”
I smiled, glad she was making a face at the song and not at my singing. (Although who knows, it could have been both.)
If you’re unfamiliar with the song the lyrics start out with:
Let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on
You got the healing that I want
Just like they say it in the song
Until the dawn, let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on
“Well,” I said, “Marvin Gaye was a soul singer in the 60’s and 70’s. He had a big hit called Let’s Get It On, that was out in the 70’s I think, and then had kind of a come back with a song called Sexual Healing in the early 80’s.
“So, when they say, Let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on, what they’re saying is, ‘Let’s put on some sexy music and have sex.'”
When you have a 15 year old, you have to kind of tell it like it is.
“I would never want to lose my virginity to a song,” she said. “Because then for the rest of my life whenever I heard that song I would think of that.”
I smiled. “Hopefully when you’re older and you look back on losing your virginity, which I hope is many, many years from now, like in college, you look upon it fondly because you were with someone you loved. And if there was a song that reminded you of it, it would be a happy memory.”
“Well, I still don’t want to do it to a song,” she said.
I love the conversations I have with Marley. Her frankness with me and my ability to be frank with her.
“You know, we’ll have to check with Dad when we get home, but I think it was Marvin Gaye that-”
“Oh God, Mom. No!” she interrupted me.
“I don’t want to know what music you and Dad were listening to the first time you had sex. Or ever!”
“Ha! No!” I laughed. “That’s not what I was going to say at all. I was going to say that Marvin Gaye was murdered by his father. At least I’m pretty sure it was Marvin Gaye. That’s what I need to ask Dad.”
“Oh thank God,” she said. “Not that Marvin Gaye was murdered by his father – that’s terrible, but that you weren’t going to tell me about you and Dad.”
“Don’t worry, Marley, I would never tell you about that.” I said I was frank with her, but there are some things that don’t need to be told.
“Thank you Mom.”
“You’re welcome, Marley.”
“You should write about this in your blog,” she said. “It’s pretty funny even though it may have scarred me for life.”
“I think maybe I will,” I told her, so glad that I could finally write a funny story about my teenage daughter with her blessing. “I think maybe I will.”
Chandler chose a liberal arts college in Washington DC, so by dropped off, I mean flew 2700 miles across the country, stayed five nights with a girlfriend in Virginia, and drove around picking up bedding and hangers and toothpaste (not to mention 5 Costco-sized boxes of granola bars and 6 pounds of protein powder) before depositing Chandler at his dorm where he almost didn’t let me stay and help him unpack. (Fortunately for him, he came to his senses.)
We flew out on Wednesday, did our errands on Thursday, went sightseeing on Friday and moved him in on Saturday. I stayed a couple extra days in case we forgot anything (which of course we did) and because it’s way cheaper to fly out on a Monday than a Sunday.
The roads in Virginia are confusing to me. In California we are on a grid. Virginia? Not so much.
I could find no rhyme or reason to how they planned their roads. Streets randomly change names, there are trees everywhere, which is lovely, but it means that there are no landmarks and everywhere looks the same. There are also no signs. I understand and appreciate sign laws, but they have seriously taken the whole “no sign” thing too far. Strip malls sit far back off the street (behind the trees) and there is no possible way to know what store is inside of a shopping center unless you drive into it (down a quarter mile long driveway). Can someone please explain to me how someone from out of town is supposed to know where a freaking Starbucks is if you can’t see them from the road?!
And to make matters worse the GPS on my phone was not cooperating so we had to use Chandler’s. Yes, the navigation lady on Chandler’s phone would tell us to In half a mile turn right, In 400 feet turn right, TURN RIGHT! I mean, yeah, she was a little bossy, but in this case it was comforting to be told exactly where to go.
The only thing my navigation lady said was GPS signal lost. (Bitch!)
When I left Chandler on Saturday my GPS lost its signal (again) but at least it happened after I downloaded the directions. Then the battery started to die. My portable charger was dead and the car charger would not work. “Really, universe?!” I screamed said out loud. “I just dropped my son off at college 2,700 miles away. He’s so excited to start life on his own, he wouldn’t even let me stay for dinner. And now you’re not going to let me find my way home?” They say if you put it out into the universe what you need you will get it and this time it actually worked – with a bit of effort (and a lot of jiggling) I was able to get the car charger to work(ish).
I made it back and had half price sushi with my very good lifelong friends who now live in Virginia. Fortunately I did not have to drive.
On Sunday I had to go to Walmart (light bulb for desk lamp, thumb tacks and dryer sheets) and Old Navy (flip flops for the shower that inexplicably Walmart did not have) in Virginia, then to Chandler’s school in DC, and then back to Virginia to a cool restaurant/wine tasting bar called The Wine Kitchen to meet my long-time blogger friend Abby Byrd IRL. (That’s In Real Life for all you non-bloggers out there.)
Easy-Peasy, right? I mean, I’m a full-time working suburban mom; my typical Sundays have three times the items on this list.
I got to Walmart and Old Navy just fine. But then my GPS decided to PMS and completely shut down on me in the Old Navy parking lot even though I had full bars. (I told you she was a bitch!)
And when you’re somewhere you’ve never been before, you’re feeling very emotional about just dropping off your firstborn at college (that did I mention is 2,700 miles away?) and lost, it kind of stresses you out.
I went back into Old Navy to get on their WiFi so I could pull up my navigation. And I was running late so I had to get in touch with Abby and ask her if we could meet an hour later. BUT, even though I connected to Old Navy’s WiFi I could not get my navigation to work. And to make matters worse I did not have Abby’s phone number and could only contact her via Facebook messenger, which was also not working.
I decided to go next door to Nordstrom Rack hoping their WiFi would be better, because, you know, it’s Nordstrom. Success! I was able to change the time with Abby and pull up directions. Of course the navigation signal was lost the minute I walked out of the store, but at least it was stored in my phone.
After saying goodbye to Chandler I punched in the address to The Wine Kitchen and surprise, surprise, my GPS had shut down again. I saw a university shuttle bus that takes students to the closest Metro stop so I followed it knowing there was a Starbucks at that stop and I could go inside and get onto my navigation system using their WiFi.
By this time I was running late, mentally exhausted, emotionally drained, frustrated and lacking confidence (though I have to admit it was pretty clever of me to follow that bus). My phone screen kept going black and I had to continually swipe my screen and re-pull up my directions. It was while doing this that I missed an exit on my way to the Wine Kitchen. As I drove past it I literally screamed, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” at the top of my lungs as tears rolled down my face. I felt completely undone, as if this were some harbinger of what my life was going to be like without Chandler. Without me he was untethered and free. Without him I couldn’t find my way; I was lost.
Can I ask that you indulge me (yes even more) for a minute and let me tell once again how crazy the roads are in Virginia? You can’t just get off at the next exit and get back on in the opposite direction like you can in California.
As an example it was 22.6 miles from the Old Navy to Chandler’s school. This relatively “short” trip had 9 turns, 7 roads, 1 parkway, 1 state road, 3 highways and a traffic circle and is a 35 minute trip with no traffic. (Thank you Google maps.)
In comparison, from my house to UCLA it is 26.7 miles that has 5 turns, 6 streets and 2 freeways and is a 33 minute trip with no traffic. Okay, the fact that there is never no traffic between my house and UCLA, even at 4AM on Christmas is beside the point!
Thank you for your indulgence, back to the story…
I did pull off at the next exit (I was still a good 30 minutes away and was supposed to meet Abby in 10 minutes) and saw a Ritz Carlton. I parked in front a shuttle bus, walked up to a valet and said, “Hi. I’m incredibly lost. I’m 3,000 miles away from home, I have no idea where anything is, I’m late for an appointment and my GPS is not working.” I did my best to hold it together and not have crazy eyes or tears.
He kindly directed me to the concierge where the lovely man behind the desk agreed that Virginia roads are jacked up and printed me a map. Abby had arrived and texted me (I had given her my number) and I was able to let her know that I was going to be really (really) late.
I finally found my destination with Abby waiting graciously and patiently for me. The wine and conversation made me feel better (because wine and conversation makes everything better). Afterwards Abby helped me find my way back to my friend’s. (Which miraculously only had 3 roads and 2 turns!)
I’ve been home a few days now. I know where everything is, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m lost, still trying to find my way.
Chandler graduated high school yesterday. In two days I’ll be 50. I feel like I should write something poignant and profound and beautiful and maybe just a little self-deprecating and funny.
All week I’ve been waiting for the words to flow out of me – an emotional floodgate burst open.
It’s not that I don’t feel anything. Of course I do. I just can’t seem to grasp hold of the words. (That’s kind of a bad thing for a writer.)
In hopes of finding inspiration I meditate before sitting down to write and try to block out the sounds of the morning. The sprinklers go off – one of our two allotted days to water our lawn in this drought. The birds sing their morning song. The dishwasher chugs and swirls as we forgot to run it last night (again). The hum of the refrigerator, another damn cricket somewhere in this house, and the tick tick tick of the kitchen clock all compete for my attention.
Perhaps the words won’t come because these milestones are hard things to face.
Chandler put on his robe and mortarboard last night and marched with 550 of his classmates. My eyes filled with tears when I first caught sight of them. I’m proud of him and happy for him and so excited for the new adventures he’s about to face, but of course I wonder if I’ve done enough. Have I given him the skills he needs to be successful in this next phase of his life?
He won’t let me talk to him about girls, so I fear he won’t know how to treat them. He will literally walk out of the room if I bring up the subject. (Sorry future first girlfriend, you might be screwed.)
My kitchen is not really designed for more than one person to work at once (and maybe I’m just a bit of a control freak), so I never taught him to cook anything but grilled cheese, nachos and poached eggs. Not that he’ll be cooking in his dorm. But still. One day he’ll need to know.
At least he does know how to do his own laundry.
And speaking of milestones that are hard to face…
When you turn 40 you can convince yourself that you probably have more days ahead of you than behind you, but that’s most likely not the case with 50. So the trick is how do I make the most of the days, weeks, months, years I have ahead of me? I still have a lot of time left, sure, but not enough to waste it.
I guess I need to tell myself the same things I need to tell Chandler.
Eat healthfully (most of the time).
Work hard and budget your money, but every once in a while it’s okay to splurge. (And most of the time it’s better to splurge on experiences than things.)
You will meet people who find happiness and contentment uninteresting and boring. They are wrong.
Being cool is overrated.
Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone stronger, faster, smarter, more successful than you. Strive to be the very best YOU you can be.
Travel whenever you can.
Do not confuse the minutiae of daily life with dullness. Seek out the beauty of the everyday – the smell of ripe peaches in the fruit bowl, the vibrant colors of a summer sunset, a smile from a stranger, the wonder of all those stars in the night sky.
Savor every single bite of that bacon cheeseburger.
Make wishes on stars.
If you love someone tell them.
Follow your dreams. (Even if you’re 50 and your dream is to write and the words just won’t come.)
Don’t ignore the sound of the ticking clock. It ticks faster than you think.