A Mother In a Strange Land

A Mother In a Strange Land

Last weekend I found myself laughing and teary in the same moment. Again.  It’s happening a lot. With all three kids in high school, so many moments are prime for this conflicting, unsettling mix of relief and loss.  They made it through – avoided choking on Polly Pockets, graduated from diapers, learned to read and tie their shoes, survived inevitable middle school drama. But wait – they’re not going to be here much longer. The rhythms and normalcies of life are going to change for all of us, which is expected and exhilarating, and really hard.

Within the same hour on that Saturday morning, I found myself ordering a new mattress for the six-foot, one hundred seventy-five-pound person Owen has become at eighteen, and then sitting in our family room while he scrolled through rental options for original episodes of Scooby-Doo.  With the flick of my magic mom wand (groan), we spent $499 for a mattress, and then did a cost analysis of renting single Scooby-Doo episodes versus purchasing the entire 1969 original season collection.

The mattress purchase was inevitable. Owen had been sleeping on the same mattress since he was eight, and he’s pretty much tripled in size since then.  We’ve tried flipping it, getting new bedding, adding a memory foam mattress topper, but the kid was sleeping horribly and really needed some more support. I’d been committed to the current mattress because we had purchased under duress when Owen’s first mattress succumbed to projectile stomach flu. Jim went out to get a new mattress while I handled the other two still-vomiting children. He came home fast and proud with a Great Mattress!!  And I pronounced that this Great Mattress better last as long as Owen lived in our house. 

Well, we almost made it…

Ordering the new mattress last week led to talking with Owen about living in a dorm. How do you make a dorm mattress comfortable? Bigger question – how do you share confined space with someone you’ve never met? Even though the roommate-pairing process is more finely calibrated now than when I went through it, Owen is a kid who needs his space, physically and emotionally, and the adventure into shared living is going to be a little daunting.  This is where the tears started for me, because I remember on a gut-punch level the displacement I felt being away from home my first college semester. The idea of my child feeling anything like that is oh so much harder, even though I know it’s necessary, even though I know I got through it, and I know he will, too.

But for the most part during this senior year, Owen has been better at compartmentalizing than I’ve been. After the mattress/dorm discussion, he wandered into the family room to turn on the TV.  It was Saturday morning after all. What high school senior, ready to launch but not sure into what, wouldn’t want to spend part of Saturday morning watching cartoons? I dried my tears and started cleaning up from breakfast, until Owen said, “Hey, Mom…?”

I went over to where he sat, remote in hand, scrolling through On Demand choices.  “I just really want to watch some Scooby Doo,” he said.  My kids all loved original Scooby-Doo when they were little – Scooby-Doo and the Ghost Pirates, Merry Scary Mystery, Phantom Snowman. “But the original episodes are only for rent,” Owen continued. “I could buy the whole first season for $19.99. What do you think?  Or just rent an episode for $1.99?”

Sure, get the whole season, I wanted to say. Get them all, every single season. Sit here in our family room watching Scooby-Doo forever.  Manic laughter bubbled up inside me, and I had to walk away for a minute.  What I wouldn’t give to go backwards just for one morning, to have all three kids bouncing on the couch watching Scooby-Doo while pancakes were being griddled, orange juice poured, syrup and butter on the table, family all in one place, all still small enough to pick up and put on my lap.

There are some moments, some contrasts, that just about split my heart in two. Like the realization of needing comfort in two such different ways at the same time. The almost-man – one who needs a man-sized mattress to get real adult sleep before he goes out into the world to do grownup things – lives in the same body as the boy who wants to watch Scooby-Doo, to spend Saturday morning with the soundtrack of his childhood.  I love both versions unendingly, and I also know the moments I’ll have both versions in front of me at the same time are rare. They’re almost gone.



About our Blogger:

Elizabeth Dougherty is a freelance writer in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Her blog, Plan Q, chronicles real, everyday experiences and viewpoints — funny, stressful, tearful, mundane — and how they all tie together to define our lives. She aims to make her readers laugh, cry, feel, think, and wonder.  That’s what writing and reading do for her, and if she can pass on any of that, then all the twists and turns that whip her right past Plans A through P and land her at Plan Q are more than worth it! Visit Plan Q at www.elizabethdoughertyfreelancewriting.wordpress.com or connect with her on Facebook.





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