I have so much to write, so many ideas in my head, that I should probably rev up my draft folder again so I can hang onto all of it for future reference. I’ll get around to it, hopefully.
Things are crazy as usual and I’ll likely write up how extraordinary our sixth and final LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO show was last Sunday, but for now I’m just going to give you the essay I read on stage at the Athenaeum Theatre and wish you a Happy Mother’s Day, if you’re celebrating it this Sunday. By the way, I’m sending virtual hugs to you if you don’t celebrate it for reasons that are difficult.
My essay is called “Moving On.”
January 2017. It was very cold in Chicago: fifteen degrees with a wind chill of about negative two hundred and forty. It was the kind of weather that you feel all the way to the center of your bones as it blows right through all the layers, and frostbite can nip ferociously at exposed skin in just minutes. So, of course, it was the perfect day to move my younger son, Jason, into his first post-college apartment near Kenosha, Wisconsin.
This move was just one piece of a bittersweet puzzle; our family was preparing to splinter apart geographically over the next few months. First Jason was moving and then Jim and I would be moving from Naperville to Tennessee. At the same time our older son Dylan would be moving from our Naperville home to Aurora so he could continue working in this area. Most of the time I was certain this was the beginning of the end, but if you caught me on the days when I possessed an abundance of optimism I would have claimed it was just the beginning of new beginnings.
A few weeks before, I had accompanied Jason on his home search. He was in brand new territory as he just gone from being a college student on a very limited budget to starting a well-paying “Real World” job which allowed him more living choices than he had anticipated. He set up a few appointments to tour the prospects, and when I offered to accompany him WITH NO EXPECTATION OF HIS ACCEPTING MY OFFER BECAUSE HE WAS NEARLY TWENTY-TWO AND TOTALLY ABLE TO MAKE HIS OWN DECISIONS, I was thrilled when he took me up on it.
After a morning of House Hunters: the Post-College Edition, he eliminated everything but two favorites. The first finalist was a luxury apartment with all the bells and whistles that was within his budget but more than he wanted to spend. The other was a charming, cozy upper apartment in an old home that was thirty percent cheaper but had no shower, just a bathtub that sat under the low part of the ceiling that was slanted from the roof line, which would make standing upright in the tub impossible.
Jason hasn’t taken baths over showers since he was a toddler, but he still tried to create a compromise with himself on the absent shower because the rent was so low.
I took him to lunch so he could agonize over burgers and onion rings and suggested that we make a pros and cons list to help him decide. The luxury apartment had many advantages that were important: it was closer to work which meant a savings in gasoline. It included garage parking, a huge plus during winter in the Midwest. There was a laundry room in the spacious unit, and use of the on-site workout room and pool was part of the deal.
The little upper apartment in the old house had its share of pros but we kept revisiting that bathtub. As his mother I was compelled to warn him about that big of a compromise. After all, I’d known him since before he was born and could not imagine his giving up the ease of showering in favor of bathing in a tub involving more time…and terrible posture. I said, “If you feel like you can take only baths for the length of your lease, go ahead but…”
“Yeah…” he replied, still trying to make it work. “I think I can though! It’s so much cheaper! It should be…fine?”
“Okay,” I said, chomping on another onion ring, satisfied that I had done my due diligence, “it’s totally up to you!”
Letting go is both hard and rewarding.
We ate in silence for a few minutes and then I asked him what he was thinking.
“I’m thinking…that I wish that upper apartment had a shower.”
I knew it. Moms always know, don’t they? In this family we are not Bath People. We are Shower People!
Decision made. Luxury apartment—with a shower—it was.
Adulting is both hard and rewarding.
That’s how we ended up nailing down the destination for the big move that would happen on what seemed like the coldest day of the decade.
We made it to the apartment complex after a quick stop at IKEA for various furniture pieces with Swedish nonsense names and, after Jason picked up his shiny new key from the office, started unloading. On our first trip up to the third floor, I learned the Cardinal Rule of Moving: always bring toilet paper to the new place. There were no paper products whatsoever because in my grand plan for the day, the Target run was scheduled for after lunch. Bathroom break for mom: postponed.
The good news was, if there was any silver lining to relocating him on such a freezing cold day, it was that we moved quickly. It wasn’t long before we experienced the relief of returning that moving truck, right at the same time I experienced the relief of using the bathroom for the first time in hours.
At lunch (more burgers and onion rings), Dylan was excitedly telling Jason about all the things they’d do together that weekend. Dylan had attended college in Kenosha and planned to stay with his brother for a couple of days to show him his favorite places in town, including Ron’s Place. Ron’s Place is a Kenosha institution famous for its forty—FORTY!—varieties of Long Island Iced Teas.
Sitting there with my adult sons while they talked about taking the “Tour of Teas” and Ubering home so they could get “schwasted”, I felt…well, a little jealous. Those teas are really good!
Anyway, another feeling I had was maternal awkwardness.
“I feel like I shouldn’t be here for this conversation,” I said.
“Why not?” Dylan replied, “we’re all adults here.”
And the child becomes the parent.
After lunch we returned to the new apartment and began setting things up. As we assembled the Kallax and the Ektorp and the Poäng from IKEA, the three of us laughed and carried on easy conversation. At one point I even smiled and said something to Jason that ended with “you know, should your girlfriend move in here eventually” without cringing a bit like I would have a couple of years ago. Maybe we ARE all adults here.
It occurred to me in a flash that I was supposed to be a little sad about all of this, but that day I just couldn’t get past the happiness. It was fun to see both of my boys spring-boarding into their new stage of life, and this new phase of our relationship—our ADULT relationship—that we were all navigating together was exciting. It has been said that all good things must come to an end, but now I’m not so sure that’s always true. Often good things just become new and improved as we move on, and what’s so sad about that?
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I posted mine this week, too, because my brain is too tired to recap 🙂
What a perfect piece to end all sorts of journeys for you, personally, and for your family. I’m glad you shared it.
(Also, I want a long island iced tea, but I know that wasn’t exactly the point of the whole thing.)