Confession is good for the soul.

Fairly rotten for the backside, if you’re being raised in a spanking-type house, but still, it feels good to get it off your chest so to speak.

I haven’t seen the inside of my gym for a month and a half.

I think it’s the longest I’ve ever gone AWOL and my soul, backside, chest and other random anatomy bits are all the slightly worse for it.

My new fasting diet at work is helpful, of course, but there came a day this week when I simply had to get off my nantucket and move. And not indoors, I wanted sunshine and fresh air.

I came home from work, tossed on my tennies, and headed for the trails. Five minutes into the run walk, I was on the phone with a girlfriend, because I’ve also been a little AWOL with my peeps. Then the Hubby called. I may have some catching up to do in my life. My poor mom probably thinks I’m dead.

But hey, we all went for a run walk together, so there’s a start.

Every once in a while, I noticed tracks in the dusty trail:

Everyone in SoCal knows what this means, and as I jogged chatted I began scanning the immediate area with growing concern.

There was another one every quarter mile or so.

A couple thin, erratic tracks could have been baby hypodermics; every twig was suspect. “Babe,” I said into the phone, “I gotta go. Need to do some jumping jacks.”

Somewhere in the last month and a half, I must have blinked because summer was here and with it, snakes.

These tracks were made by grand-daddies. Recently. Like maybe five minutes ago.

I was nearing the end of my route when I came around a bend in the road and stopped cold had a cardio event. The western diamondback wasn’t crossing the trail in a leisurely loopy way. He was motivated. He was hunting. And I was suddenly between him and his destiny. He came toward me for a moment or two, but sensing that I was one with Nature  about to play Run and Scream, he continued across and up the bank.


Can you see him? I was almost three feet away before I realized the dead grass/dirt combo was slithering. That is some serious camo. I whimpered while waiting for a chance to go home and hide under the bed. He made me writhe, tolerate, endure his superiority for-agonizing-ever.

The minute his business end went into the chain link fence, I started edging my way past.


He stopped and gave me a withering, backwards glance. “Coward,” he seemed to say, “had you been running instead of posing, we would have had a different encounter altogether.”

“Yes, yes,” I babbled to him in my head, “don’t I know it. I’ll go back to the gym and stay there! 20 push-ups yoga stretches and a Zumba class cooking channel hour, honest! I don’t even like fresh air!”

Realizing how close I’d come to death by exercise, I covered the last of my 5K like a wary ninja, scanning the trails, peering into brush, startling at every rustle, my cell phone weapon ready.

This little guy popped out and I almost karate-chopped a dead pine tree in my haste to defend myself not be physically touching the ground. When I climbed back down, he was still there, pretending to be part of the shrubbery.

Nope. Sorry little dude. You are definitely in plain sight, and the rattler is definitely going to swallow you up whole. I tried to carry him home with me, but hares aren’t known for their brains in the way that keeps them from being way down low on the food chain.

This was the last track I found before completing my workout with a final sprint finally kissing the civilized asphalt:

I want to believe the gopher plugged up his hole when he saw doom slithering his way, and the snake was stuck eating salad for dinner. And I don’t even like gophers.

Please. Let’s none of us tell my mother about this.

Run and Scream

When my creative son worked as a fifth grade summer camp counselor, he invented a game. He was in charge of a dozen thirteen year old boys around the clock and, hard pressed to keep them occupied until the dinner bell, had them play “Run and Scream”.

The idea was to line up, take a deep breath, and on the count of three, start running…and screaming. You had to run as far as you could until you ran out of scream, then stop. Whoever got the furthest, won.

Starting my new job has been just like that.

Every morning my alarm clock reminds me that I now have a schedule to keep, so just lying there being annoyed by the sunlight is no longer an option.

So I get up and pull a Claire and put on white clothes and flat iron my tresses and collect flares for when they chase me with a T Rex later. My high heels are quite zippy.

I have discovered the travesty of eating my oatmeal at 6am, when my tonsils aren’t even awake yet, the horrors of making tea in a Keurig in the lunchroom, and the joys of living off of gummy bears when leaving my desk for a break is not possible.

Time out while we address that:

There is a delicate line that is not to be crossed when choosing to put food in your mouth in this public setting. You must ask yourself some hard questions:

  1. Is there in any way a smell attached to this snack? Will people get funny looks on their faces and sniff the air? Will it remain on your breath and startle your coworker who needs to look over your shoulder to show you something?
  2. Is there in any way a sound attached to this snack? Will an awkward silence hit the office, as everyone suddenly peers at their computer screens simultaneously and the sound of your apple crunching echoes from the rafters?
  3. Are the size of the bites that enter your mouth prohibitive to answering the phone that rings when you bite it? Can it be swallowed whole? Is it choke-proof or will you cough on a granola bar crumb and capsize until tears run down your cheeks while your co-worker answers the line for you?
  4. Did you cheat and go with a liquid bevmo? Do you see your desk? Millions of little important papers and electronics? If the phone cord wraps around the mug and sends that hot, mediocre tea into your lap instead, will you be okay with that?
  5. No, let’s just get up for ten minutes, eat our measly leftovers and not realize that spinach, while a healthy alternative to vending machine fare, is not a good look in our teeth for the upcoming staff meeting.

Being a nanny had it’s challenges, but this job is a whole new ballgame.

Yes, there was running, and yes, there was screaming.

But when you’re a nanny, snacks are a group activity that can take hours if you do it right.

You might still end up with tea in your lap, but it will be freshly brewed and the highest of quality.

You will be proud to wear it.

Instead, as a humble servant of the public, I pretend to go snack-less and appear to have no greater goal than to run as fast as I can, screaming at the printer when it doesn’t share my expectations of excellence.

Quietly. I scream quietly.

My coworker is on the phone.

I usually run out of scream around 7pm.

Then I just drop sideways where ever I happen to be at the time, and my family waves their hands in front of my glazed-over eyes, wondering where I went.

Dinner was frozen hotdogs. Laundry was self-serve. The vacuum is actually collecting dust.

Not sure how all you “working moms” have been holding it together all this time, but my hat’s off to you.

Anytime you want to play “Run and Scream” let me know.

But please…tell me there’ll be snacks.

Summer Son #2

Eureka, California, July 2011.

Our two hitch-hikers rolled into town, still following – more or less – the historic and breath-taking 101 freeway north.

North of San Francisco, the landscape pulls you along as the mountain ranges of our pacific northwest creep ever closer to the ocean. You have a foretaste of glories to come in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park that ushers you into Eureka.

The coastline now is nothing like the tame, surfing, comfortable beaches of San Diego. They go wild and wonton, foggy and foamy. Waves batter into cliffs and carve out coves and fling polished driftwood and stones onto the sand.

The boys began investigating this city, having no preconceived ideas other than wondering what the next part of the day might bring.

What with one thing and another, they found themselves on the outskirts of town, preparing to make their next move north.

Under a large tree in a clearing, they saw an athletic young lady. She had her effects and stood next to a bicycle that meant business.

Curious, they approached the dirty blonde to see what her story was.

It turned out that she had been part of a biking tour that had just left without her. They had been heading north on a summer expedition and as she had completely underestimated her own stamina, she had left the group just that day and was reevaluating her options.

My son remembers staring at giant wild blackberry bushes while she told her story. He was thinking, “Wow, we don’t have anything like that at home.”

They shared their own information, and once they realized they all shared a common destination – north – decided to try something radical: hitch hike together, three people, three packs, a guitar, and a bike.

Now really.

Who’s going to stop for that circus?

“Why not?” they said, “Let’s give it a try.”

“Well,” she replied, “I don’t mind joining the party. I have to get home eventually.”

She looked at her bike.

“This could be tricky.”

Stopping for these wanderers in the little red rental car was a decidedly optimistic maneuver.

And at the wheel, grinning ear to ear, was Ronan O’Sullivan, his very self.

Sturdy he was, with the clean-shaven baby face of an angel, though he was thirty years old if he was a day. When the travelers peered into his car and met his blue eyes, twinkling like all of Father Christmas below his ginger hair, there was a collective and spontaneous YES.

“What’s all this?” cried Ronan in the thickest accent an Irishman could have and still be intelligible, “Who are you and where are you going?”

But the kids were busy trying to figure out how to fit into the car.

“We don’t know where we’re going,” they replied, “just north to explore!”

Mr. O’Sullivan could not believe his luck.

That was his exact agenda.

Mr. O’Sullivan was on holiday.

He had flown into America, rented a car, and with no idea where to begin, his goal was to experience and explore as much as he could before his time was up.

“Why, that’s just the thing!” he said, as they piled in, “Americans do this? Stand by the road and travel like this? Do you know where we should stay? Can you tell me what’s good to eat over here?”

His questions went on and on as they began the long and winding road up the coastline. He was so happy to have his own personal, thoroughly American tour guides, that the four of them travelled together for a solid week.

The kids thought his accent was wildly and wonderfully entertaining. Just listening to him talk was captivating.

Every turn in the road brought an exclamation of wonder from their generous driver. He stopped constantly to investigate a beach cove, massive canyon, torrid river, or massive trees.

Every couple of miles seemed to increase his happiness.

He cracked jokes, he told them about his home back in Ireland.

“San Diego, you said?” came his predictable question, “So how far from your house is Hollywood?”

My son has done a bit of traveling and without fail, people take one look at his blond surfer cliche self and ask about Hollywood. It seems to be the benchmark for all of Southern California.

Maybe all of California.

People from Ireland don’t know about Mt Shasta, but they’ve heard of Hollywood.

He stopped to explore a lot of bars, and my son is quick to point out that cliches are also foolish going the other direction. The bars were for nursing a pint of local brew while applying his same thorough investigation to the local people. That’s what pubs are for.

Ronan wasn’t there to party.

Ronan was there to assimilate and enjoy every atom of the culture and atmosphere.

Which meant that everywhere Ronan went, he brought the party with him, through pure happiness to be there.

The kids weren’t old enough to join him in the bars; although they were carded for alcohol, pot was beginning to be as circulated as loose change.

Perhaps Ronan would bring them back a bottle or two when he joined them later in the evening around the pool of a cheap hotel, but he was never interested in the rest. He stayed as clean cut as the landscape that was calling them.

They stopped in Klamath and ate at Paul Bunyun’s Diner. They made it to Crescent City.

From there, they detoured northeast, driving through Grant’s Pass and up into the forested gorges and coves to Crater Lake National Park.

This is a place that remains in my son’s artistic memory as one of prehistoric and pristine beauty.

“It’s the weirdest kind of beautiful,” he said, “The massive lake sits in a giant bowl and messes with your depth perception. The water is a deep turquoise, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I remember massive trees. And massive ants,” he says with a frown, “and for some reason, I remember snow on the ground in places when we were hiking there. But that can’t be right. It was July.”

That, my son, is because you can still find snow there, even in July. Crater Lake is mostly pure snowmelt. Your memory is better than mine, well done.

Like the volcano that collapsed and left Crater Lake, their adventures eventually came to a close with Mr O’Sullivan, leaving a crisp memory, many shades of blue.

They all stayed in touch after that summer, through Facebook.

Ronan flew back to Ireland and has a wife and kids now.

The young biker lives in Portland, and the boys visited when they eventually arrived there.

Her bike had a great many miles put on it, but not because she had pedaled all the way home.

Sometimes on their road-trip, half the bike sat in the back, and half the bike sat in their laps.

But sometimes, they held it, arms out the side window, rolling along parallel with the rental car.



Ghostwriter: a writer who authors books, manuscripts, blog posts, stories, texts, music, memoirs, political speeches, cookbooks, hip-hop lyrics, college term papers, wedding invitations, drug prescriptions, and generally anything at all – but will never get the credit for it – because you were hired by a big fat cheater cheater pumpkin eater.

Who are these cheaters you ask?

I’ll tell you who: “VC Andrews” and Wolfgang A. Mozart. Politicians and medical professionals. Comedians and comic book artists and college kids.

It means that if I’m Hillary Clinton and want to write my memoirs but I just can’t find the time because, darn it all, I’m trying to be president and stuff, then I can hire someone else to throw it together and pay them $500,000.00.

All the ghostwriter has to do is everything, and sign a teensy little anonymous contract:

“I, someone who can write with Hillary Clinton’s accent, promise to deliver a whole book on time and never, ever, ever, tell a soul about it. I won’t tell anyone what is in her closet, even the color of her socks….I will just pocket the money and disappear into the dark alley where ghosts hang out. Rich ghosts.”

Except Hillary, of course, will pocket her EIGHT MILLION DOLLAR advance royalties and “write” more books later that say “By Hillary Clinton” on the cover.

Not only have I lost my faith in humanity, but they just put the “lie” in “library”.

The last holdout for limitless paper imagination, and beacon of hope for starving wanna-be authors everywhere.

I mean, maybe I raised my eyebrows a tad when Janet Evanovich put out her twenty-first book in as many years. I want to believe the woman has it in her. That her comedy runs true and deep, and when it fumbled around in the first couple, it was her genius taking hold of the concept, and when it fumbled around in the last couple, it was her genius saying, “Kid, take a break, I’m exhausted from being witty.”

God forbid she calls in a ghostwriter when her own plots begin to wane, so that she can keep cranking out books every year and making mad money.

I mean, not that I can’t wait for “her” next book to show up. But still.

For all I know, the whole public library was filled by ten writers, tops. And they’re ventriloquists.

I really should have suspected the Nancy Drew series, now that I know what I’m looking for. Carolyn Keene does not exist except in the ghostly pens of mysterious contributors. I will miss your titian hair, Nancy.

Great Scott. Was Titian a lie too? Do you suppose he retired like a king in Cagliari at twenty and paid someone else to keep going for him?

“Just throw some red in there,” I can hear him say to his ghost-painter, “everyone will assume my style is evolving,” as he takes a swig from his cabernet, “People will believe anything.”

And so it ends, another day, lying face down on the ground of disillusionment.

How the mighty have fallen.

And as long as I’m down here, just let me know if there’s any Oscar acceptance speeches you need written.

If you have the money, I have the time.

Maybe I should drop Janet a line…


Summer Son #1

Two big guys, two big packs, and two big smiles sat on the side of the road.

One with a beat-up guitar.

One with a sign.

Would you stop for them?

When you’re trying to get from one place to another with only your charm for cab fare, how do you go about it?

The boys began their journey on the San Diego coast, at the famous 101.

They ended up as far north as Seattle, Washington before the summer closed out.

There were some things, says my son, that he learned the hard way, and some things that he was born already knowing.

This hitch-hiking adventure was a hodgepodge of both, and everything in-between and they never knew what was coming down the road next.

The first mistake that became obvious long before he wanted to admit it, was his choice of shoes.

He figured if the army could march through deserts and over mountains in boots, so could he.

They ended up doing a lot of walking. And a lot of waiting. But those big army boots were the wrong shape for either. Closed and hot, his feet blistered up early on.

By the time they reached Santa Barbara, the ten pound a-piece footwear made a cross-fit workout seem tame.

It took a while to find a spot for the night. They settled on a cozy place behind a dumpster that sat behind a church.

When two police officers woke them with a firm kick at three in the morning, they were off and marching again, brushing the roaches from their faces.

Slowly, they walked the length of the town without stopping.

When dawn broke, it occurred to them that they had completely circled Santa Barbara, and were back at the street where they had begun the evening before.

They almost cried.

Legs aching, and dizzy from lack of sleep, they sat on the beach all morning. At some point they realized a soup kitchen was open nearby and joined the local bums for brunch.

Once Santa Barbara was finally behind them, the boots were traded out for cheap, light, flexible skate shoes.

My kid is an artist in general and a doodler in particular, so he was in charge of the cardboard roadside signs.

One side had crazy art, the type that catches your attention.

On the other, in big bold lettering, he put the name of the next town north.

Sometimes, his cardboard art caught the attention of passers-by, who stopped to observe his freehand and stayed to chat them up about their travels. It was obvious from the sign that they weren’t your ordinary, every day bums, but kids on a wild adventure.

It was a great conversation starter.

A couple of times, people insisted on buying the art piece on the spot, and he pocketed $20 or $30 with it.

But most of the time, the sign served it’s purpose and stopped a vehicle heading north.

Then the sign got tossed.

His buddy played an acoustic guitar, and although it wasn’t in a case, it doubled as a wallet a lot of the time, a handy place to stash small valuables.

They made up songs as they walked down the road, picking out melody lines and making up lyrics about the cars that weren’t stopping for them.

Some days, they never got a lift.

And some days, they turned them down.

A lady pulled over and offered them a ride. Peering into her car, the boys saw at least eight large dogs milling around in the seats.

“They’re really sweet dogs, fellas!” she insisted.

They waved her on, sure that they didn’t want to join the circus.

An older man pulled over and offered them a ride. Peering into his car, there were a couple of red flags to consider. First, he wore nothing but a pair of tighty-whities. Second, there was a ten-inch bowie knife lying on the console.

“I’ll take ya where ever you want to go, guys!” he insisted.

“Nah,” said my son, “we’re good. Thanks!”

The elderly gentleman couldn’t hide his disappointment, but moved on.

They were already in the car with a young woman when their radar detected an unidentified flying freak-show vibe. And not just because she was tweaky. Upon further conversation, the woman confessed that she may or may not have killed someone and she may or may not be pursued by police and she may or may not be driving directly through the next couple of states, but they were sure welcome to ride along.

The boys insisted they were just fine being dropped off in the next convenient town or clump of trees, whichever came first.

A lot of the time, however, they were picked up by more or less regular folks. Sometimes it was other kids, wandering for the summer, or on their way to festivals. Sometimes it was people flat out curious, wondering what these two nomads were doing out in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes it was mom-types who had sons of her own their age, and she insisted on taking them home for dinner.

The songwriters turned storytellers once the ride began.

It was only fair to give your benefactors something in return for the favor, and as they introduced themselves, names, histories, and ancestries were made up at random by the boys. Everyone in the vehicle would exchange life information, driving down the highway and telling stories, some true, some false, and no one caring either way.

Enjoying the company, most drivers were just happy to hang out until the next town loomed on the horizon. It was live entertainment, a happy change from the radio.

Only once did a semi-truck pull off the road and offer them a ride.

It took forever for it to come to a stop, and the boys weren’t sure if it was for them, but they ran towards it, determined to convince the driver anyway.

Hopping from the cab was one of two Armenian brothers who, with the aid of very broken english and a smart phone, invited them into a cab containing a full kitchen and a set of bunk beds.

The boys went as far as Portland with them, learning Armenian folksongs from one excellent guitar-playing brother while the other put the hammer down, singing at the top of their lungs and higher than kites from a cab full of pot.

Before that, there was Ronan, the happy Irishman.

But we’ll leave him for another story.

Mother’s Day From the Other Side

So it was Mothers Day, and since Jolie is a Mother she’s biased and isn’t allowed to write about it.

Instead, it’s me, Daughter #2, and while I don’t do Mothers Day the Hallmark way, I think we – the kids – did pretty good this year.

For starters, all five of us are still alive and haven’t committed any major felonies.

You know, as soon as some person commits some terrible crime or arson or fraud, everybody isn’t interested it where the person went wrong. Oh no, everybody wants to know WHO their mother is?! And how could she have been such an incompetent mother that their lovely little angel turned out so wrong?! So really, we’ve already given her the gift of another year without any major public scrutiny. No promises for next year but we’re doing our best for you, ma!

On actual mother’s Day, we don’t do the breakfast in bed thing anymore. For starters, I have no memory of my mother ever consuming breakfast…or being in bed. In fact I do not think I have ever seen her eat. She consumes tea from 7am to 6pm and sometimes has a glass of wine for dinner when she needs a good night of sleep…which is probably the only time I have ever seen her sleep.

Cards are also out. If you’re reading her blog then you probably already know she has more sarcasm than sentiment in her. I guess having five super weird kids has that affect on people. Also, I’ve read quite a few of those Hallmark mothers Day cards and frankly I think that they’re about as heartwarming as mailing her an inspirational cat poster. Home-made cards are only cute when you’re nine and under. Poor lady already has about 300 pieces of craft paper with your little handprint on them. She loves all 300 but I don’t think she wants another one.

Mom, if I’m wrong, and you do want another one, you just let me know. All of us still have two hands and loads of paint, we will wallpaper the house in handprints, you just say the word. But since we tried that a couple of times when we were little and you weren’t too happy about it, we held off this year.

Instead we went to church in the morning and, what are the odds, we happened to be reading the story from the Bible about the evil Herodia and how her daughter tricked Herod into cutting off John’s head so she could bring it to her mother on a platter. And me and Daughter #1 are sitting there in church thinking…. dang, how do you top that for Mothers Day? Wasn’t cool to raise the bar like that right in the middle of Mothers Day.

So, after church I go to Albertsons to get some flowers for my mom. I do this, not so much because she really wanted some flowers, but more because I really love Albertsons, especially on obscure holidays, like Easter or Valentines Day or Mother’s Day. On these days, if you go in around noon, you find about a hundred middle-aged men, frantically trying to buy presents for women.

Last-minute panic shopping is one of the greatest spectator sports. Black Friday, for example, is a good one. But on Mothers Day, you go into Albertsons and there’s frantic men scrambling all over the bakery and the candy shelves and the flower section. They circle the bouquet stand again and again and again, trying to figure out what kind of flowers are “mother flowers”.

And they all have the same look on their faces that’s a combination of determination and the look on the face of a drowning man. And that makes sense, because how do you pick out the thing that says “Happy Mother’s Day”?

Really, how do you find something to convey to your mother how much you really love and respect her? How do you let her know you appreciate all the sacrifices she made that you didn’t appreciate all those years? The bedtime stories. The hard lessons that made you both cry all night. The thousands of elementary school mediocre awards ceremonies that she clapped for. The talents that she encouraged that you didn’t realize for years, that you got from her.

The truth is, you’ll never be able to tell or show her how much you appreciate her, but if she’s your mother, she knows.

Bond Beneficiary

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it can sprout up through the humus of old piles of stuff, and when it’s ripe, you pick it.

My daughter, alone, found enough loose change under her bed to buy Christmas presents last year.

My son finally cleaned up a teetering pile of paperwork stashed in a corner and a crisp $20 bill fell out of an old birthday card.

I hope he thanked whoever it was at the time, because he did the Happy Dance for a solid half hour before it burned a hole through his pocket.

And once in a while, I find five dollar bills in the pocket of my jeans. Usually it’s only a couple of bucks though, because, debit cards.

And also, kids.

Last week’s search for a photo turned into this week’s discovery that I had a few prisoners left in the Jumanji box.

There actually was an old savings bond in that stack of memory mulch and it had secretly ripened four years ago.

I won it in 1982 in a county-wide writing contest with an essay titled “How the Declaration of Independence Affects Me Now”.

In 1982, the Declaration of Independence affected my grades.

In 2016, it’s gonna be my national treasure…all the way to the bank.

Stop everything you’re doing right now and pay attention.

If you have ever acquired a savings bond and stashed it away to “mature”, go dig it out and take a look at it.

Like wine, they have a time limit. You can only stash it away for so long, and then you’ve got vinegar. Mine is a series EE and after 30 years, it has all the interest on it that it will ever get.

I looked it up, and so can you: there are millions of dollars of savings bonds going UNCLAIMED because everyone stashed them, forgot about them, or don’t realize that they are as good as they’re gonna get.

Dare I say it?

It’s time to scythe through the jungles of your house and find your own ancient relics.

Face value is $50.

The contest people paid $25 for it at the time.

Today, I cash that puppy in for $146.00.

This is pretty great stuff *Happy Dance*.

Of course, it was made out to Miss Jolie Maiden Name at her original teensy house in the hood.

But Mr Roosevelt himself is next to it, and he’ll vouch for me.

He was there and witnessed it all.

And he took it seriously, watching me open and close the lid for over thirty years, playing his part in the game.


Unlike a certain award-winning writer, he hasn’t antiqued a bit.

Summer of the Lost Son

There came a summer when the sun was lost.

It was California hot, blue skies promising day after day of shimmery warm waves of paradise found. Night’s canopy held infinite starry shifts of perspective.

If you have ever pondered these stars, you find yourself caught up in both the vastness of your universe and the vast idea that you are just as vast, for how else could the thought have occurred to you?

The nights were crisply real that particular summer, but the days were flat and void of adjectives.

The sun was a low-hung plastic disk, plowing through the firmament, until it was finally time to check off another box on the calendar.

My eldest walked into the kitchen one May morning and told me that he and his best buddy were going to hitch hike up the coast and into the Great North. They had friends along the way to visit. They had backpacks full of camping gear. They had high hopes of adventure and low hopes of their parents’ approval.

It’s hard to know what to say, as you sit there stirring your tea.

If there’s one thing out of a great many things my firstborn has taught me, it’s that people are who they are when they’re born and that, “control” being the oldest joke in the book, my influence as the mom moves directly through my children’s heartstrings.

This opportunity to indulge his wanderlust was a natural expansion for someone who isn’t content thinking “What if…?”

He needs to go find out.

The big courage he carries to back that process up contains a bigger heart inside of it that, despite his every effort to downplay it, cares deeply about his mom.

Screaming into my head came my own “What if?”s.

They tore up from my gut and stretched my throat, demanding liberty, but were instantly wrestled into a holding vault.

That was my own big courage.

A few perfunctory questions about the general plan, followed with more tea.

And then I marched him down to the mall and hooked him up with a cell phone.

It was the only thing I asked from him.

“Please,” I asked calmly, “When you can, just let me know you’re okay.”

“Mom,” he said, “I’ll try. We might be in a lot of places where we don’t get coverage.”

“I know,” I said, the vault door was being hammered from inside, the hinges rattling loose, “Just do your best and if you need me at all,” I stared him down, “AT ALL, I will come for you. No questions asked.”

His eyes told me he understood the largeness of what my vault contained.

“I know,” he said, hugging me, “it’ll be fine.”

Oh, the comforting of a child. Remember being stuck in bed with a new baby or the flu, and your toddler bringing you his favorite stuffed toy to cheer you up?

Such a small gesture for such a large love.

And it has to be enough.

This is the opening of a mini-series he and I are sketching, of the summer of the lost son. I want to explore it with him in an attempt to discover what might be useful to know, both as a family, and as humans who gaze at the stars and wonder about things that would take many lifetimes to understand.

It was a hard summer for me.

Every bum on every street corner morphed into my kid. Every homeless camp became his refuge. I wondered if cops were the good guys or the bad guys. What happens if you sleep all night on a park bench? What if, what if, what if….?

I blotted out every hitch-hiking story I had ever heard.

The iron-clad vault grew crowded and heavy as the weeks passed that summer.

It squished the sun flat.