Sneaking Up On Me
time, I don't even
make it all the way out of the airport. Usually I am able to
hold things together at least until Hourly Parking. A couple of times,
in recent months, I've become a little weepy while passing through
Baggage Claim. Once, I broke down completely, right in front of the
Alaska Airlines ticket counter. (I'm not sure, but I believe that might
have been the year that Flight #261 went down off the coast of
California, mere hours before I was due to put the girls on #361 to
TicTac.) Usually, though, David and I
are all the way out of the terminal and in the Subaru and halfway
back to Alameda before the waterworks kick in.
time it all
sneaks up on me early, like a surprise party on the one day you forgot
to comb your hair. My son hasn't even boarded the plane yet -- we are
still sitting together at Gate 6, calmly waiting for his boarding call
-- when I'm suddenly overcome by an absolute tsunamai of sadness.
Everything has been fine until this moment. He's only sixteen, so I
have been allowed to pass through a bazillion levels of airport
security and wait with him in the upper terminal. Until now, we've
spent the time talking, laughing, making fun of other passengers,
eavesdropping on nearby cell phone conversations ... all of the usual
Mom-and-Son airport stuff ... when I suddenly feel this huge emotional
storm approaching out of nowhere.
my god! I think, panicked. I
can't let him see me cry! We've
had such a great weekend together. Lots of shopping. Lots of
sightseeing. Lots of food. Lots of hanging around the apartment with
his incredibly groovy mom. I'm not going to spoil it now. I swallow a
couple of times, hard, and order myself not to cry.
so noiselessly and so efficiently that my son doesn't even notice.
But something gives me
away, I guess: the sudden silence, maybe, after sixty minutes of
nonstop maternal jabber. A sniffle. An involuntary intake of breath. He
looks over at me and sees my eyes puddling with tears, and he rolls his
own eyes in mock disgust. "You're not going to get all weepy on me, are
you?" he says. "I'm not coming down here anymore if you're going to CRY
all the time."
teasing me, in that sly, sarcastic way that
sixteen-going-on-seventeen-year-old males have perfected, over the
ages, but his underlying tone is very gentle. He understands that this
sort of stuff is tough on a mom ... even the world's most incredibly
groovy variety of mom.
blink -- once, twice,
three times, very fast -- and smile. "I'm just sitting here thinking,"
I say to him, with deliberate offhandedness.
it's true. I am just
sitting here thinking. It's
like giving birth to them, over and over and over again
is what I am thinking. Every time one of the Tots flies down here to
visit, it's a little bit like those last frantic days of pregnancy: the
anticipation, the planning, the build-up, the preparation ... the mad
scramble to make room for the new arrival ... the uncontrollable
cravings for weird revolting foods. And then they arrive, finally, in a
blur of noise and hugs and cameras flashing, and it's even more
exciting than I expected, and they're even more beautiful than I'd
hoped for, and for the next little while it's all about keeping them
fed and clothed and healthy and entertained ... making sure they're
properly buckled in the backseat of the car ... making sure they have
enough blankets at night ... making sure that they TRY
ON the goddamned $70 baggy jeans
I hand over my credit card to the salivating Macy's salesclerk ... and
pretty soon I find myself lost in the whole deliriously wonderful
process of hands-on motherhood, all over again.
then they go home, is the other
thing I am thinking, and
it's a little bit like losing them all over again.
you thinking about?" he asks, interrupting my morose train of thought.
smile at him. "I'm
thinking about how nice this weekend has been," I say. "And about what
a great kid you are, and about how much I'm going to miss you." And
with this -- right on cue -- the floodgates crumble.
seconds, my face
is an oilslick of snot and Maybelline.
nods. "I figured it
was something like that," he says. And without another word, he reaches
over and puts his hand on my knee. We sit that way for the next little
while ... not speaking, not moving, not looking at each other ... just
me and my beautiful boy, waiting in companionable silence for the plane
that will take him home.
going to be a mess
by Hourly Parking.
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