I don't know you but I feel you

At the airport on the way to Virginia for four days, I wait in the security line to hand over my ID and boarding pass. In front of me, a well-tanned mother stands, arms crossed, next to her teenage daughter who clutches her boarding pass and glares in her mother's general direction. I cannot hear their whole conversation but the rhythm is powerfully familiar. Mother: plaintive, tentative question. Teenager: *pause for maximum power* *glare* *eye-roll* jeez-mom-why-are-you-so-lame-type response.

I wince and inch back to give them some space but they are right in front of me and I am riveted by their body language, their facial expressions. Did I do that as a teenager? (Yes, I most surely did.) Will Zoe do that when she's that age? (Yes, she most surely will.) Will they hug and kiss and say goodbye with tenderness and love?

No, no they didn't.


The plane has leveled off and I'm sweaty with anticipation, dying to hold my daughter after almost four days away from her. I gaze over across the aisle at a mother and her two teenage sons. The oldest has crammed his long legs under him and is slumping over, a baseball hat and bouncy orange curls almost totally obscuring his face. The other son, a few years younger, lays his orange haired head on the tray table in front of him and his mother looks down at him. She pauses and then tenderly, slowly, she strokes his hair, as if asking: "Can I still do this?".

He lets her. Or, he is already asleep.


At Zoe's school today, we leave a few minutes after another family: the mother, the older brother and Zoe's classmate Cara. I do not know this mother, though as the Room Parent (why yes it IS capitalized!) I really should. She looks tired today, though and I use that as my TOTALLY VALID excuse not to introduce myself. As we arrive at our car, Zoe points out that "Cara's getting in her car too!" and I look over at their car to see the mother kneeling in the road by the open backseat door, taking a deep breath and putting her hand to her forehead in what looks like total exasperation and frustration. I'm about to look away when her eyes suddenly meet mine. We both look away; I don't know who's more embarrassed.

I vow to introduce myself next time.


One of the middle aged brothers who've been squatting off and on in the shack on their parents' old property at the end of our block has been walking around our neighborhood again. I see him and his brother using a garden hose to wash their clothes on warm days and new tarps have been thrown up on their roof as they ready for more rains. He and his girlfriend (wife?) sometimes wave, sometimes glare at me when I pass by them and I feel the constant, uneasy tension of my relative wealth and comfort living so close to ...... what cannot be very comfortable.

The man, his girlfriend and their three little kids (OMG do they ALL sleep in that shack? Did he really go to prison? ARE THOSE KIDS OKAY!?!?!) are walking down the sidewalk this afternoon as I drive up to the stop sign. I have to wait for traffic to clear so I peek over at them. The littlest is in his mother's arms and she lifts his bottom up to her nose to sniff, makes a face at what she finds and shakes her head, smiling.

I smile down into my lap in recognition. I guess we mothers all do the butt sniff.


Astarte said...

I am dreading the teenage years. I pray that we somehow avoid some of the pain, since Josie isn't much for drama anymore, but we'll see. It seems like she and I only just have really hit a groove recently, and I hate to think of it disappearing in just a few short years.

My boy already sometimes shies away from my touch. It kills me.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to perfect that "I understand" look whenever I see another mom with a toddler having a meltdown. I don't know if it works, but I just want them to know I have been in that same situation.

Swistle said...

This is sooooooo good.

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