OK dear readers, I am following what you like and don’t like and while I had started my ABC of California, many of you prefer it when I talk shit about my private life, whether it’s my mom, my fraudulent move to Ireland or Caroline’s birthday…
As some of you know, this weekend I traveled to Boston for Parents’ Weekend to see how our college freshman Will is faring at the School of Engineering at Northeastern, during a nor’easter… yes, there was bad weather in the forecast and this may be the beginning of William’s first hard-core winter, ever…
I can talk about many impressions and stories as this weekend develops but the thing that is maybe the strangest is that you have nurtured and followed a child very closely for 18 years and all of a sudden he lives thousands of miles away from you and… you have to make plans for lunch. You have lunch and you hug after lunch and as you look over your shoulder that eighteen-year-old is walking away from you, into the rest of his life.
This is the normal cycle of life and one of the many goodbyes we have to make happen to turn our kids into adults, but it hurts. And in a sick sort of melancholy spiral all we can think of all of a sudden is how helpless they were as babies, how cute they were as toddlers and well, fuck puberty, how interesting they are as they are developing and becoming adults.
In between it all here in Boston, the weather has been a recurring topic. There is some back story here, so let me fill you in:
When Will was born, my mother was adamant about one thing: the baby was too cold and I needed to cover him in more blankets. With all the research I had read upon on SID’s I knew too many blankets were bad, so I fought my mom, thinking she was probably making up for lost time: I was born in the middle of November in freezing cold temps– my father had called the doctor but since the night was so clear and my mother had been slow delivering babies (btw this was a home birth, another proud tradition of the Netherlands where pregnancy is not treated like a disease), the doctor had decided to go for a drive looking at the star-filled sky. My dad, who did not want to leave my mother’s side, had left the front door open for the doctor (who, yes, came too late) and I was born, healthy, but freezing, because the temp in the house had dropped below freezing.
Truth is, Will was always cold. Even in California.
His last semester at Miramonte I was sitting with him in the car one early morning and it was not terribly cold, but his teeth were chattering. “And you are moving to Boston?” I told him, which was code of course for WTF are you thinking for going to school out of state and having us pay through the nose for an experience you could well have had in state, with good weather and no loans to worry about once you finish?
Being here, Will said he was not wild about the weather but that he would participate in the underwear run, a Northeastern tradition, which means running from campus to a large reflective pool/fountain, jumping in and running back to campus. If I had been my mother, I would have put my fist down and told him he would die from exposure, a sudden heart attack from congenital heart disease we didn’t know we had running in the family or simply frost bite of a piece of essential anatomy he had in mind too: “Duh–” he said “Major shrinkage, mom…” TMI? Yes, we quickly changed the subject to the phenomenal Fall colors on the East Coast and Nietzsche (the topic of his philosophy paper). He put my mind at ease: “Not doing the fountain, mom.” At that point, I told him I could help him proofread his paper as I know a thing or two about nihilism, which is a form of shrinkage in the cosmic sense.
So at 9 PM, I was waiting by the fountain (it’s not a fountain really but a huge body of water) and I was freezing my ovaries off, and I was wondering how many kids would show up for this, thinking about a handful of funny English college chaps who run naked around the quad or whatever it is they have at Oxford or Cambridge.
I was in a for a surprise– hundreds of young men and women came running through, in undies, less than undies, bras, completely uninhibited, free, joyous, ecstatic, loud and brash.
If we think the sixties never happened, they happened tonight in downtown Boston.
It was awesome and a little terrifying at the same time. And get this: many spectators were bemoaning the fact that they were no longer young…
But this was the refreshing thing, and I don’t know if this is a millennial thing or the Lena Dunham-factor, but I saw many obese girls running along, too, just as happy as the girl with the Beyoncé body who, for the heck of it, had drawn two red nipples on her beige bra. Wow. Maybe we really have turned a page on some front, because at 18, when I was a lot skinnier than I am now, I still wouldn’t want to have been caught, rushing half-naked, even in a crowd, to some fucking ice-cold reflective pool in the middle of Boston.
Or maybe they were all drunk and high. Après nous, le déluge?
For a split second, I was hoping my little William, the boy who was always cold even on Northern California summer nights, the boy, who as a child, never took risks, even if it meant putting face paint on at some stupid birthday party, the boy who was an observer not a bold doer and who, at 3 years old, announced to me that he was “having terrible heartburn again”… yes that boy…might not be there..
But he was…
I heard a loud MOM behind me– and I almost didn’t want to look but he read me like a book because then he called me by my first name, which he has never done: “INEZ!” and we locked eyes. At that very moment, I realized that Will, my little William, may not be a full man yet but he scored the great equalizer, (Inez)… that was it and him running toward that fountain.
Even though he had told me he wouldn’t do the water, I knew he had. “Did you wade?” I texted him (as I had witnessed plenty of students wading through the water while holding up their phones, taking selfies) and he texted back: “I waded so hard even though it was freezing.”
That’s it. Sometimes you just have to wade hard to make a statement. Wade hard to become your own man.