(Excerpt from The Deplorable Child by Jan Nerenberg)
Mothers, usually, are not deplorable. They are all things to their children: Chief-cook and bottle-washer, doctor, lawyer, counselor, nurse, taxi driver, cheerleader, dryer of tears, mender of tears, etc. The list goes on… forever. In fact, she almost walks on water, just ask any florist on the second Sunday in May.
However, and in spite of the above facts, including innumerable school plays and endless Little League games, track meets, and basketball games, I’m a slacker. I’ve missed performances and milestones in the lives of my multitudinous progeny. I admit it.
There was the time our oldest asked for a ride to his high school. I complied and upon arrival, commented on the packed parking lot. “It’s nothing, mom. Just a simple concert. No big deal,” he said as he exited the car. Upon arrival home, he had a plaque tucked under his arm. “How’d it go?” “Just fine,” he replied as he put his award for 2nd Chair in the Violin Section on the coffee table. See! Deplorable. Out of touch. In fact, I had no idea it was the culmination event of his year!
Then there was the black full-length gown I crafted for our youngest daughter. “Do you want to be a chaperone?” she asked after the concert I DID attend at the local high school. Hmmm, on a bus with half a gazillion teenagers on a two-hour bus trip each way to hear the same concert? I declined the honor. Wrong move. As I graduated years later from Pacific University, I discovered that my daughter’s high school group had not only qualified for the state playoffs but they had performed on Pac U’s stage all those years ago. Oblivious to the obvious.
Slow, but I do learn. I’ve turned over a new leaf. I try to attend as many historic events in the lives of my children as possible but the fates aren’t always with me. Case in point, our youngest son’s doctoral graduation.
We are in the winding up stages of reclaiming our home from a 3000-gallon internal flood, getting ready to install lights, preparing an apartment for said son and family, and answering to half a dozen sub-contractors daily. I set my alarm for just past 7 AM, showered, checked in with the work crew, helped my husband find his missing hearing aid and left for Corvallis at 9:30. Only a half hour late but I had scheduled an extra hour to account for emergencies. I always do this, as there is always something!
All was well as we left Astoria. The car shuddered as we climbed Clatskanie hill. I prayed. The motor smoothed out. I breathed. We continued. In Woodland, Washington, the shudder was back. I was afraid that if we stopped we would never start again, but my husband, bless his decision, pulled into a gas station. I exited the car as smoke spiraled into the air when he lifted the hood. The smoke was quickly followed by erupting flames. I don’t know what possessed me but I grabbed my purse and phone from the now burning car. Truly deplorable behavior.
A helpful attendant extinguished the flames and wanted to file an incident report until his boss showed up and suggested that we move the car as far away from his station as possible, pointing out that car fires and gas pumps do not make good neighbors. He directed us to a car repair/dealership, three blocks down the road. That’s when we met Julie (see epilogue).
By now I was near hysterics. Could I rent a taxi to drive the remaining 100 miles? How about helicopter, Lear jet, police escort? Once more I had failed.
I tearfully called our daughter-in-law and explained our predicament. She said they understood, she was glad we were okay, said the kids were already cranky, and don’t stress. Our son parked he was driving and called, saying repeatedly that it was okay and not my fault. I kept thinking I should have somehow known how to prevent this. He downplayed the importance of the ceremony – it’s only a piece of paper, no big deal.
By now I was gulping for air. Yes, I am a bit of a drama queen. (Gad, I can’t believe I just admitted that in print.) Nevertheless, he told us to return home; they would videotape the entire proceedings. We could celebrate together on Sunday, his birthday. My crying slowed a bit.
“Mom,” his voice cut through my clouded thoughts. “I know you are proud of me. You tell me all the time. You are a good mother and it’s okay.”
I sniffed. An errant thought ran through my head. “Well, at least I was there and on time for your birth.”
Silence. And then… laughter.
“Dang good thing,” he chuckled.
Yes, laughter in the face of adversity is good. I might be a deplorable mom for many reasons but at least I was front and center to birth each of our eight children.
Epilogue: Julie of Woodland’s Lewis River Motor Company gave us a loaner car and although we arrived halfway through the Oregon State ceremony, we were able to watch our son, Nathan, walk across the stage and receive his PharmD diploma. God places good people in the world.
Congratulations, Dr. Nerenberg