You do your best for 18 years and then pack him up and off he goes to college. At home, you learn how to fit back into your own life which is still full, but now of course, minus one. After a few weeks, the drama wears off and friends stop asking how your child is doing and how you’re doing, and you’re left with a new normal that with time becomes, well, normal.
Of course, you’re still a phone call, text or plane ride away and would give the shirt off your back if you needed to, assuming that by now with this extra free time you’ve culled the stretched out and dingy bras and these days only wear pretty ones.
You try to be cool and certainly you don’t go posting about your child in college because surely, you’re now over it and focusing on your other child or work or home or family or, heaven forbid, yourself even. Not to mention that no one is still waxing on about their child once he’s moved out; instead they’ve confidently released theirs into the world, as you should have.
But you, you’ve got a soufflé in the oven, and you keep opening the door to check on it assuming it will still rise like you’ve planned. Funny thing with soufflés, though, they rise if you leave them alone. Preheat your oven, fold in your best ingredients, and turn your creation over to time without double and triple checking its progress, and you’ll more often than not yield a beautiful result.
You had months to indulge yourself and your friends leading up to it all, with baccalaureate, graduation, last suppers and then the packing, road trip and dorm move in. The social media posts practically wrote themselves! And then, it’s all done and whoosh! A light goes out and you are silent.
This isn’t like taxes where you push and push to complete them and then drop them in the mail just before the deadline and now get to look forward to a refund coming back. You do get returns, but they aren’t necessarily enormous, nor are they promised, but they do come and in unpredictable spurts.
So, you keep your texts to a minimum and try to schedule weekly Facetime chats to check in on him, and all is rolling along routinely. You get occasional updates on dorm life, roommates, how the food allowance is working out, and how classes are going. You’ve largely parked your helicopter, but it’s there should you need to take it out for a spin.
Instinctively, you never miss a chance to keep mothering from afar peppering him with questions – did you get your flu shot yet? Since that class is difficult, why don’t you go to tutoring? Do you have everything you need?
However, nothing floods you back to the height of mothering quite like the text, “I have a fever and I feel awful.” You picture the doom roof is leaking and a dank 40 something degree drizzle is seeping in, there are no blankets and your child sits on the floor curled up in a ball, a sink full of dirty dishes nearby, with nothing to sip on and no one to care. That was earlier this month at 5:09 p.m., minus the roof leak and child curled up visual.
It is in these instances that the powerful on-a-mission-mother-mode returns full throttle. My boy was sick so instinctively I set up soup central in my dining room and polled three sets of Manhattan friends who would know where to get great chicken soup delivered. Stat. I got several good suggestions, but these places only made matzah ball or consommé. I pressed on to locate that bowl chock full of chicken breast and carrots and celery and noodles, the healer of the infirmed, its steam alone that cures what ails you.
I kept looking and calling and Googling and found a place which led me to a dead-end but then another place and another and we were there. The young girl on the phone was super nice and I told her I was calling from Georgia and my son was sick, hence the urgency. She sensed I needed some mothering too and ladled up a big dose for me and him. She was my stand in as the mama bear standing over the stove in a stained apron stirring porridge, and who knows, she might have even missed hers. She assured me this was good soup, really good. I trusted her.
I had to order online which I promptly did, getting him a quart of chicken noodle and two Ginger ales. This was 6:42 p.m. I included my number in the online order because my son sounded pitiful and besides, I wasn’t leaving soup central until it was in his hands, so I might as well continue to be the point person. At 6:53 p.m. the soup delivery guy called me from the dorm lobby, and I called my son in turn who went down the elevator to get it.
At 6:58 p.m. I got his text, “thanks so much. very warm and comforting.”
My work was done.
It was 16 minutes from order to door that the soup made it into his hands. $21.96 with tax and gratuity, a pittance for peace of mind. I felt soothed getting the call and now knowing he’d be able to hunker down with this quart of magic and sip Ginger ale.
Hale and hearty: that’s him now and that’s me. But let me let you in on something: it’s the soup, too. I’d recommend this place in a New York minute. Same with getting to care for someone who needs me.
Like a mama bear, I will always deliver.
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