Mother to the man

My son turned 20 yesterday. He is twenty years old.

Twenty. Years. Old.

Here he is on a train in London:

Here he is inside my head:

I am the mother of a man. He's educated me far more than I could have ever hoped to educate him. Over the past two decades, in addition to making me laugh daily and investing my life with enormous joy and meaning, he's shown me the pragmatics of how a human being unfolds, and I can't begin to quantify what that's done for me as a writer.

He and his 18-year-old sister are spending the week in Amsterdam while Gary and I sit home repeating "anne frank house anne frank house anne frank house", because isn't that what young people go to Amsterdam for? That and the Van Gogh Museum, right? Nod now. Please.

My sanity has been saved by Gmail's chat feature. I've been clinging to my computer, hoping to see a little green icon by my son's name on my contact list. At first things were not going Dutchtastically well. They arrived at the Bulldog, a popular youth hostel, to find it booked solid from now until wooden shoes go out of style. They hit an Internet cafe to develop Strategy 2.0, and ended up booking a cheap room where they would take turns sleeping on the floor.
Ok, I've consigned myself to staying at that hotel (the bathroom light is broken and I had to tighten the bulb standing on a wet tile floor) tonight and tomorrow. Some guy just walked by the door and said something to me that I can only describe as "completely insane" in a mixture of Dutch and English. Anyway, I just wanted to let you both know that we're alright. We went to the history museum today. Amsterdam is an amazingly boring city. Seriously. Muncie, Indiana has a more interesting history.

But things seem to have improved today.
Our trip is going a little better. We had a good time yesterday, and got some excellent souvenir shopping done today. Jerusha is behind me talking to a bunch of Australians. They just got here from Ho Chi Minh City, which is awesome.

I am the mother of a man, and I'm glad he's the kind of man who appreciates the awesomeness of Ho Chi Minh City, the kind of man who goes to Amsterdam with no reservations, literally and figuratively. My son is wildly creative and funny, and it is thrilling to see him taking ownership of his life. But I am terrified by the prospect of his freedom.

As a writer, I set a wonderful and terrible example for my children. They've seen the high-diving horse trick up close. Yawn. They are unimpressed by my survival in a business where so few are allowed to thrive. They have this horrendous idea in their heads that you can decide to do something that everyone else -- including your mother -- tells you cannot or should not be done and then go do that. They've seen that dry spells without security or steady cash flow are not fatal. They think that failure is invariably followed by rebound, that weeping endureth for a night but a royalty check cometh in the morning. They've been infected with the ideology of doing as you damn please and think that it's worth it to let the proverbial chips fall where they may, even though that usually means buffalo chips falling on your head.

Have I done them grave harm or a huge favor with all that? The Bohemian in me wants to believe that freedom of thought, an eagerness to experience the world, and a grand vision of one's destiny are great gifts. But right now the mother in me is saying...

anne frank house anne frank house anne frank house...

Comments

On my way out the door, but I wanted to say great post - as the mother of a man-to-be -- very, very shortly.

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