Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Am I Still Driving A Mom Bus?

by Amy Ruhlin   


It's a hot Monday morning in June and there is no breeze; the air is still and I can feel July approaching.  I've awoken late and I lie in bed thinking about metal and rubber, about machines that take us from point A to point B, about cars. My daughter has her own car and my son will soon have his own; why I am still driving a mom bus?

I think about my daughter's upcoming move into her first apartment. We need my car to carry a kitchen table and 4 chairs, a large mattress and a long desk. I think about other things I've carried in my car: car seats holding my babies, little giggly girls and small rowdy boys, sports equipment for hockey games, teenagers laughing and playing loud word games, and colorful beach chairs and packed coolers for family vacations. I stare at the ceiling and realize that I've become attached to driving inside of a large open space; a container for holding all of the things that I most dearly love but that is now most often empty.

I finally get up and go downstairs and walk into the kitchen. My kids sit at the table and stare at their laptops. I say good morning but they do not hear me; headphones cover their ears. I move closer to them but they do not see me; pixelated images fill their eyes. I stand there in my pajamas and I feel invisible. My role as a mother is shifting beneath my feet and I struggle with my balance. My kids are moving themselves from point A to point B and I need to figure out how to do the same.

I need some air so I get dressed and step out into the heat and take the dog for a walk. The day is hot and there is no movement; I find no relief and no solutions. The dog and I circle the neighborhood and we come back home. I check my phone and my husband has sent me a lifeline in the form of a text:

"Wanna go look at cars tonight?"

He has encouraged me for months to follow through with my idea of downsizing my car. I question my audacity of considering the possibility of not having a car that meets everyone’s needs.

I smile and text back, "Sure let’s eat dinner out too."

We test drive three cars. The first two are only different versions of what I have been driving for the past 20 years: a practical family car with plenty of cargo space. They are at least smaller , but they are not really what I need; they are not really what I am looking for.

"So, how do you feel when you drive them?" my husband asks.

"Bored", I reply.

We circle the car lot one last time and I see a model that I had not seen before. It is a smaller car with a hatchback:  enough room for a family of four but with a simple style and a European flair; it is no mom bus.

We take it out for a drive.  It's roomy and smooth and hugs the road.  It's fun.

We decide to go home and think about it. On the way, we stop at a restaurant and eat ribs and drink martinis.

"You looked so happy driving that car, just like I remember you when we were young. You looked like Amy,” my husband says.

Before I had children, I drove small cars with stick shifts. I wasn't afraid to take risks and I swore I would never live in the suburbs or drive a minivan.  Motherhood  makes liars of us all.

I'm afraid my new car will scream “midlife crisis” so I text my son,

"Do you think this car looks too young for me?"

"No.  How could something look too young? Looks awesome to me," he texts back.

It seems so silly; scraps of metal and rubber wheels have made me smile and given me hope. But here at the age of fify, it somehow seems fitting and like a step in the right direction.  It is a declaration of my independence.  It is a way back to myself, to the girl I used to be before I took on the role of mother, to the girl who has no problem navigating her way from point A to point B.

It's Tuesday morning and I'm out of bed early. I step outside and feel a cool breeze. For the first time in weeks, I think about my writing and the second half of my life awaiting me. I've gained some balance and  the tilt has shifted towards me.

 My children walk into my office and sit down on the sofa.  They are interested in what I am writing and they are excited about my new car. As I've moved back towards my own self, I have become more visible;  there is more of me for them to hear; there is more of me for them to see. There is more of me to give.

 We talk and laugh easily together for a good while and finally my daughter asks,

"So, your new car won't have room to carry all of my stuff to my new apartment?"

"Nope" I say. "We'll have to rent a U-Haul."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Son And Me

by Amy Ruhlin

As seen on: LivingBetterat50+

My son has a job as a lifeguard this summer and today, I drove him to work. Though he now has his driver’s license, he does not yet have his own car, so for the time being we must share mine and he is being a good sport about it. I drive slowly; neither of us has an agenda and there are no external distractions. We are simply mother and son, each fully present, as we so often were when he was young, before I became preoccupied with the passing of time and midlife reinvention, and before he became preoccupied with the demands of growing up and teenage activities.

He sits in the passenger seat beside me wearing his uniform: red, knee length swim trunks, a white T-shirt with the word "Lifeguard" spread across the back, a whistle around his neck. I take in the sight, knowing that it will soon be a cherished memory. I remember other uniforms: lime green pajamas with cartoon characters on the front, a black ninja outfit for Halloween, a baggy soccer uniform on his small four-year-old frame. He has a new haircut. I can see his delicate facial features: well defined eyebrows, long, black eyelashes an easy smile.  The features that I appreciated every day when he was young but have often failed to notice since he hit puberty and since I turned 45. He has been busy trying to break away, as he should. I have been busy trying to move on and to hide my heartache, as much as I can.

He talks to me about his job and I listen and I can tell that he still cares that I listen. He tells me about the beginning of his cross country running season and that he will be among the leaders of the team during his senior year. I am impressed and I can tell that it still matters to him that I am. We talk about colleges and I encourage him to follow his deep interest in the one that is half-way across the country, even though the distance is a concern. I see him surprised at my encouragement, but glad that he still has my support. Though he is almost 17 years old and nearly 6 feet tall, I see that he is still vulnerable, still lighthearted, still interested in what his mom thinks of his life. The same son as before, only in a different uniform.

Like so many mothers and sons, my son and I were inseparable when he was small.  He barely left my side; he was my little boy. But as he grew, I was no longer the center of his universe, no longer the only girl in his life, and I knew that I had to begin the process of letting go. I didn't want to do it and it was often scary. I was afraid of losing him.

But today, during a quiet few moments together in my car, I realize that I haven’t lost anything. My little boy has simply grown into a fine young man and we are still mother and son.