Singin’ the you-haul blues…

Oh, Fargo.

I  tried to love you. Really, I did.  Well, maybe “love” is a bit strong.  You housed and educated my eldest for four years, which I appreciate.  It was a good place for him since he was impervious to both blizzards and Bison fanaticism. We bought a lot of groceries at your Walmart and ate in practically every restaurant along 13th Avenue. During those visits, I also stayed in your hotels because you see, I am a mom of an adult son.  Adult daughters let you stay with them and even offer you their bed, which is lovely.  But sons? With roommates? Well, that would just be weird, Mom.  And awkward.  And…..well…kinda gross, Mom.   I recall one particularly sketchy online “deal” hotel room when the snow blew through the poorly sealed sliding windows all night long and I cranked the circa 1975 wall heater to 75 degrees just to keep warm.  At least I didn’t have to worry about any bed bugs stowing away in my suitcase after that trip.  Anything smaller than me probably froze to death.

And can we talk about the wind?  What IS it with you and wind, Fargo?  In four years of visits, I can only recall one day when the wind wasn’t blowing. Commencement. That morning, I stood outside the Fargodome and raised my  proud mama face to the blue sky and did not think a single bad thought about you. Not one. For the next 12 hours, we celebrated graduation in air that was balmy and calm. All was right on the prairie.

We left for home the next morning in torrential rain that flooded the interstate and 40 mph wind gusts.

Which brings me to last week, when the Boy and I drove back to Fargo to begin packing his apartment.   Another difference between sons and daughters that I have found is that it takes a lot less time to pack up a son’s apartment than it does a daughter’s. It was a gorgeous 80 degree day. The next morning, it was 40 degrees. As I stood outside waiting for the truck to be delivered to the front of the store, a heavy set man in a seed cap with a cigarette dangling from his lips stopped to make small talk. “What is it they say about North Dakota weather? If you don’t like it, wait ten minutes and it will change!” he joked. I pulled my blue windbreaker closer and looked for my Minnesota Nice, but it had blown away.

And so…if you were on Highway 10 last Friday between Moorhead and Detroit Lakes and you happened to see a grim-faced mother cussing under her breath while trying to keep a ten foot long U-Haul from being blown onto the shoulder while doggedly heading east to where pine trees grow, that was me. I had to keep both hands on the steering wheel. Good thing.

The one-finger salute out the window as I watched the prairie recede in the side mirror wouldn’t have been very Minnesota Nice, at all.

One more picture…

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

It is commencement time.  Time to commence.

If you are a member of the Class of 2015, Congratulations!  You’ve earned the right to wear a funny looking cap and wrinkled gown as you march across a stage to collect what will probably be an empty folder with your school’s name printed on the front of it. Don’t worry. Everybody’s folder is empty. If you’re legit, the piece of paper you’ve worked your behind off to attain will come in the mail in a few weeks, I promise.  So for now, just act pleased.  That’s all anyone expects.

As a college graduate, you’re about to become a member of two clubs.  The alumni association of your college or university (which is optional) and adulthood (which, sadly, isn’t.)  Up to now, your job has been to learn as much as you possibly can about things that matter.  Once you pack up your last college apartment and set off for your future, your job will be to find something to do with that knowledge so that you can earn enough to keep a roof over your head, food in your fridge, and pay your own cell phone bill.  Those are the Big Three.  Six months from now, if you took student loans, there will be a fourth.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Because right now, you are preparing to graduate, and that’s good.  It’s better than good, actually.  It’s marvelous.  The strange thing about having marvelous things like graduations to celebrate is that, often, we don’t realize how marvelous those things are at the time. So be proud and be grateful.  You deserve to be the first and are required to be the second because no matter who you are or what your circumstances, you didn’t get to this place without other people who were there to support and mentor you.  Nobody does.

So, be in the moment. Turn off your phone. Listen to the music and pay attention to the speakers.  You are taking part in an experience that many people all over the globe can only dream about. And then when the speaker on the podium says, “Will the Class of 2015 please stand and be recognized” square your shoulders and stand tall.  Go and hug your parents. Don’t grumble when your mom wants to take “just one more” picture before you cram that cap and gown back into the bag and set out to find your life.

The world has been waiting a long time for your unique gifts and talents.  It can wait one more day.

Because today belongs to you.


(oh, and Ben…..please take your gown out of the bag and hang it up before next Saturday! Love, Mom.)

Mother’s Day 2015

His butt-whuppin’ of Old Testament proportions went viral in cyberspace last week during all the trouble in Baltimore.  It is every teen boy’s worst nightmare to have his mother (his MOTHER, of all people) suddenly just show up where he was specifically told he wasn’t supposed to be by his mother.

And she was not pleased.  Not. one. bit.  As I watched the video of the completely unhinged young mother in the bright yellow outfit march her masked, rock-chucking son across a parking lot and catch up to him several different times to smack him upside his masked head, my initial reaction was complete and utter awe.  He was younger, stronger, and taller and he could have easily dropped her with one blow if he’d wanted to.  Instead, he skulked ahead of her, head down, as she ran after him shaking her fists and screaming in that hell fire and damnation way that most mothers of teen boys have been driven to do from time to time.

The next day, and for several days after her “come to Jesus” fifteen minutes of Mom fame, news outlets were all over the story.  She was lauded as a hero and fine example to other mothers by some in the media, and a sad commentary on what the world has come to by others.

I saw it as both simpler and more complex. She wasn’t being a good mom. She was being a terrified one.  And she was trying to protect herself by protecting her son.  Heck. Any mom could see that.

Because the thing nobody tells you about being a mother before you’re a mother is that once you are, you spend the rest of your life terrified that something really bad will happen to this person you love in this utterly terrifying way.  The fear ebbs and flows, certainly, but it never leaves mothers completely.   Kids don’t understand this until they become parents themselves and so, as they grow, they tend to get a little testy and impatient with their mothers.They take risks and tempt fate and do stupid stuff because kids never, ever think bad things will happen to them.  Mothers, on the other hand, know that bad things happen all the time.  They’ve seen the look in the eyes of other mothers who’ve had really bad things happen. Things like illness, injuries to bodies and souls, addictions, and funerals. These things are the monsters in the nightmares that wake mothers up, trembling and clammy, in the middle of the night.

It is an awesome, terrifying, beautiful thing, this type of love.

This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day.  It is my 23rd.  I am only a mother because two other mothers on the other side of the big world loved their babies enough to put them first.  And when the cards or phone calls from the children they carried and gave birth to come to me this week, I will be thinking of them. I often tell my kids that their mothers were young, but oh, so brave. I am grateful for their courage and mindful of the awesome, terrifying responsibility that came to me, as a result.

Happy Mother’s Day!