the hours we lie awake

by bam

historic pioneer courthouse in portland, oregon: u.s. court of appeals for the ninth circuit, where a kid i love will be clerking (photo by Will Kamin)

sometimes i think maybe i should be a brand ambassador for a certain kind of mother: the mother who worries too much. i put in a stellar showing this week as i proved once again there is nary a bump in the road that i can’t imagine, can’t magnify in the picture show that plays in my head, especially in the wee, wee hours.

why, i can picture invisible germs crawling up the underside of a plastic shield. i can picture suitcases left behind, and moving trucks headed the wrong direction (more on that later). i can even picture imaginary apartments, schemes i’ve heard of first-hand where a place is advertised, virtual tours provided, only to find out the whole thing was a hoax, a ruse to snare the gullible into a make-believe lease and a real-time transfer of significant cash.

as if the real world worries aren’t plenty enough, i can embellish a script like nobody’s business.

but mostly this week i was finding my unadorned, un-embellished motherly way once again, tiptoeing in the dark, banging my toes up against doorways and corners, double-timing the wheel on the old-mother-odometer, the one that ages us, wrinkles us, grays us right before our wondering eyes.

yes, i was a mother this week whiling away the hours while her firstborn criss-crossed the country amid a pandemic, en route to a city engulfed in tear gas and federal troops. i realized that, when it comes to that kid, the first one i popped from the womb — my trial run for a lifetime — his adventures will always be unscripted for me, and i will always be finding my way. i will always be reconfiguring the walls of my heart, seeing how far i can stretch, untangling unforeseen puzzles, recalibrating my geo-scope, learning new time zones and cities, and inhaling a world of new wonders as i hitch a virtual ride on his real-life once-upon-a-rower’s extra-strength shoulders.

some parts of the script come more naturally to me. some parts are ones where i bang up, skin, and scrape my old knees. i’ve never before been the mother of a 27-year-old trekking farther from home than he’s ever lived (1,751 miles, says the wee little map on my phone). never before extended my motherly range west of the rockies, west of mounts hood, st. helens and rainier, to be geologically precise.

i know soon enough this’ll all be old news. but, just as in those first days home from the delivery room, when i literally felt my brain rewiring — as if someone was in there with a screwdriver and wrench, hooking up wires and supercharging synapses that i’d never known — my brain is once again in the midst of remodification. once again, a cognitive construction zone.

good thing the old heart stretches on impact. follows by instinct wherever, whenever, however, it’s needed.

this week’s adventure in cross-continental travel proved almost as seamless as an adventuring lad and his overage mama might hope. except for one thing. or, rather, two full-sized moving containers of things. (aka: the kid’s every last worldly possession.)

seems the folks on the loading dock back in connecticut didn’t quite read the shipping labels. or maybe they mistook the OR in oregon as a choice they could make.

they chose wrong, would be the bottom line, and sent the load hither when it should have gone yon. and so, at the moment, the kid is camping out in a bare-naked apartment, starting work monday with the one pair of beloved midcentury khakis he packed in his suitcase, a pair that once belonged to his grandpa, a pair that’ll be plenty proud to enter the chambers of the ninth circuit federal judge considered “a gentleman of the law.”

while we await the return of the rambling load (crossing our fingers and all of our toes), this old mama will undoubtedly startle in the night, tiptoe down the stairs, scribble inventories of all the irreplaceable treasures she sure hopes will resurface.

and because we mamas are the original bounce-back kids, because resilience is our necessary middle name, and we mostly land squarely — if wobbly — on our two sturdy feet, she’ll soon know every last street in downtown portland. figure out the two-hour time lag. and wait for the pandemic to end so she can get out there and soak it all in for herself.

how do you tamp down the worries that keep you from sleep?

infinite thanks to the giant-hearted kindred souls who all but held my hand in the long hours of this week as i reached for the solid ground of a safe landing and adventure-less cross-country migration. you know who you are…