My husband had been nagging me to trade in my old car. “It’s time,” he said. “Your second warranty is up.” I had closed my ears to him until he provided a reason that made sense to me: there was a Special Deal—0% financing and a $1,000 rebate. Now we’re talking! A sale!
The lure of a discount is the only thing that could have overridden my resistance. I loved that dinged-up van! I spent more time there than in my home. I recall, during one short visit, my ex-mother-in-law was appalled by the alleged “messy interior,” to which I rolled my eyes. I let her clean and vacuum as she muttered about “Ach! All zeez germs und diseases” that her precious grandsons could catch from the “filthy” interior. Please! It wasn’t so bad. Maybe there were a few fossilized Cheerios stuck to the carpets, but, excuse me: that van was our dining room, living room, and bedroom. Her grandchildren went from booster seats to driver permits in that vehicle.
This old whale of a van, this monument to my years of motherhood, had shuttled mini soccer players to tournaments and then out for celebratory or consolation DQ swirly cones. The proof was deep in its stained upholstery. That clichéd ode to soccer moms had also held wriggling cub scouts eager to begin their camping trips. There was ground-in mud on the van’s floor from various campsites, and the assorted hidden crumbs would keep us fed if we were ever lost in the wilderness. My two boys and I had shared so many adventures and memories in that car. I could never ever consider parting with my mom mobile because she was so much more than just four wheels and a body. This car was my personal time capsule.
Her rear bumper proudly boasted that I was an “Emory Mom” and a “Jayhawk Mom,” and don’t you forget it. I had to nag for those stickers. My kids didn’t understand why they were so important to me. Those stickers did more than just help me find my car in the grocery parking lot. They colorfully proclaimed my status, my identity: I’m a Mom! And not just any old mom … I’m a Mom who had successfully pushed, prodded and encouraged her boys, who had then graduated from good colleges. I loved and adored those stickers, they always made my heart feel full and happy—they were a constant reminder of my sons.
My sons haven’t been in college for several years now, haven’t lived at home, (one is already married!), and I really did need a new car. I had no choice. I thought I was ready. I decided on a shiny blue sedan. But, immediately after signing the contract, I raced outside and tried to scrape off my precious stickers and transfer them to my new car. It was an impossible task. I shredded both the stickers and my nails. Wait! WAIT! I changed my mind. If I let that van drive away, stealing my memories—what then? My new car doesn’t have a single bumper sticker; how will people know who I am?
I stood immobilized, realizing how much growing up had taken place in that van and how much more was left undone. I had been a frantic single mom, holding down a job, trying hard not to compare myself to their friends’ Super Moms. But, honestly: hadn’t my sons proven that, no matter what my shortcomings might have been as a mother, I did a good enough job, so that they were able to plow ahead and thrive?
What’s the problem here? Why am I not ready to let them go?
I have to admit that it’s because I know I could have done better. I could have made it to every soccer practice. I could have enforced time-outs. May I please have a do-over?
I promise never to park them in front of the TV; never to serve them microwaved frozen kids’ meals; I vow to better monitor their computer time; I would even follow up on consequences and insist that they clean their rooms. I just want one more chance to live those years and make every second count. One more chance.
This sudden panic that I haven’t prepared them for life is totally unfounded; it is much more likely that I haven’t prepared myself for life without them. It is textbook obvious that I want to return to playing an important role in their lives, driving them around, being the Ring Leader of their Circus. I understand that I want the impossible.
I know the exact moment when I officially promoted my sons from dependent children to young adults: it was that day in the car lot when I waved a final goodbye to my van, watched my cherished “Emory Mom” and “Jayhawk Mom” bumper stickers until the van disappeared around a corner.
I left the car lot, driving my spiffy new Dodge Charger and feeling … sexy?! What is this long-forgotten thrill? I suppose there are some benefits to trading away the old gas-guzzler. And, I know darned well that life zips by and someday I will be able to paste “Proud Grandma” stickers on my car’s bumper. But not for a few years: I want to enjoy my new car before cumbersome baby seats destroy its beautiful leather.
Susan W. Goldstein’s English major proved helpful in both Corporate and Mom-hood settings. As she now transitions from Active to Passive mom, she is finding her lifeline by returning to her beloved English Lit roots.