|Photography by Mary Allison Tierney|
I have him a quick hug. I couldn’t say a word or look at his face. After he pedaled down our driveway, I stepped into his abandoned basement dude lair/ recording studio and consoled myself by immediately attacking his room. His mattress, which lay on the floor, was surrounded by balled up dirty socks, just stepped out of boxers, a wet towel, dirty coffee cups, plates, a spoon, a Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels bag, and all the boy-in-a-band detritus: guitar strings, picks, cords, loose change, a broken pencil, scraps of paper, and a receipt for a burrito.
His backpack and guitar in the baby blue gig bag sat next to the bed. I went to move the back pack and could hardly lift the thing. It stood on the ground as high as my hip and I dragged it into the guest room. I distracted myself by purging his room. He had attached most of the his pictures and posters with duct tape, so lots of plaster came off with them. After a full day of pulling it all off, vacuuming and moving out the furniture, his brother and I went to the paint store, excited to choose the color of his new room.
I was to fly up to Seattle in two weeks. He was pedaling 900 miles to college and was wildly unprepared for this, but there was no stopping him. I got Bike Tour updates almost daily, where he camped, what he was seeing. He was with a friend and sometimes my update came through her parents via ATM debits. I worked very slowly, patching and repainting each wall.
A few days before I was set to fly up to Seattle, I learn what was making the backpack so damned heavy: his beloved chrome studded black leather biker jacket, the leather hiking boots he wore on his NOLS Alaska trip, black jean cutoffs patched with black leather, a half dozen black metal band shirts, several missing sleeves, all reeking of BO as they had been pulled from the floor or hamper and stuffed into the backpack, Cannibis Corpse sweatpants, and seven mismatched wool socks (none clean) and four pair of boxers. And of course his laptop and charger, all the essentials to start college.
Appropriately, it was raining in Seattle, raining as we drove to Olympia, and raining the next morning. Having survived his Bike Tour, he insisted on riding his bike from the hotel to his dorm, but didn’t want me to come inside. I insisted. It resembled a luxury prison suite. I’ll never know if another mother was more successful making it cozier. I never saw that room again. Or him, until Thanksgiving.
He stood me up for dinner, texting to say he ate with people he’d met, which was great, but I was disgusted. No teary hug goodbye, or final dinner and I never met his roommate. It was pouring rain the next morning as I drove to the airport and the radio was all Pearl Jam. The Pacific Northwest feeds on itself. Even though I was pissed at him, I was very much missing my son. I don’t know why now all of a sudden I expected some smarmy John Hughes scripted take-the-kid-to-college scenario, but I felt gypped. Parenting sucks.
Mary Allison has been published in The Sun magazine and the Marin Independent Journal and is looking forward with dread and gusto to starting her fourth NaNoWriMo novel in November. Mary Allison is a novice surfer, a diligent trail runner, and a 4-time Dipsea Race finisher. She tries really hard to read one long New Yorker article each week, not just the cartoons.