Soaking up the quiet of Saturday morning on my patio, I enjoy my coffee in the stillness before being productive becomes my focus. I look up and see my eldest son standing beside me. Somehow I spawned a ninja, because I did not hear him come out the back door.
I am looking at an eighteen-year-old young man, but once I make eye contact with his deep blue eyes, all I see is the sweet, tow-headed toddler who would play with his Winnie the pooh stuffed characters, making up stories and imitating all the cartoon voices.
“Mom,” uttered from a lower octave than I can conceive coming from the mouth of the perceived toddler within the man, “We need to talk.”
My imagination is instantly hijacked, and starts racing through potential scenarios.
Buying time to fret, I say, “Sounds like I may need a second cup, be right back.”
He has selected a college 3000 miles away from Texas in upstate New York. Is he changing his mind? He had a friend recently come out as gay, could it be about that? Did he drink at the party he went to last night? I know he has another friend who was recently arrested for marijuana – could that be the impetus for this slightly dramatic audience?
Reloaded, I return to my spot on the outdoor couch, as he positions himself in a chair directly across from me.
I am mentally rehearsing my response, without even hearing the question. Taking a deep breath, I am trying to also control my facial reaction, which as a southern woman, is as likely as stopping the world from spinning.
Straightening my back, I prepare for mental impact as he breaks the silence.
“I know you only want the best for me. I also know that all the decisions you have made as my mom have come from a place of love, but I need to be honest with you about something.”
The pregnant pause hangs in the spring humidity between us, as I remind myself to breathe, and fortify my eyes in case tears begin to swell.
He continues, “I don’t like wheat bread. Once I am off in college, I will probably never eat wheat bread again when white is an option. Mom, I love white bread.”
I replay what he has just confessed. Is this for real, or am I being punked? Does he really think his confession that he desires an affair with Mrs. Baird’s is going to push me over the edge?
I stop listening to his continued reasoning as my thoughts drown him out. In perfect Catholic mom guilt, I conclude this is entirely my fault. Somehow in my mind, I had created this mystery and allure of white bread. “Oh no,” I would say at a picnic, “my boys only eat wheat bread. Is this all you have?” I have driven him to this. Into the arms of a soft, white, refined flour goddess of spongy, albino carbohydrates.
“There is more,” he adds. “I also don’t think I will stick to the ‘one soda a day’ rule when I am off in school. I just wanted to be honest with you.”
I never allowed soda until he was in grade school, and then I would repeat endlessly “no more than one a day”. Even on vacations. I didn’t realize that as a senior in high school, while nailing his ACT scores, being accepted to college, going on retreats and hanging out at friends’ houses, sometimes for days, he was sticking to this rule.
At least, he isn’t switching to diet. I comfort myself with the reminder that the true evil in this world lies with artificial sweeteners.
I realize the silence between us has hung too long, and so I reach across the verbal divide.
“Of course. You are an adult. You are leaving home for college. It is expected that you will be making choices that are your own.”
Satisfied with my response, he gives me a sideways squeeze of a hug, and leaves me alone to reflect on my patio.
If white bread and soda are his vices, I think everything is going to be just fine.