04 October 2012

You just keep on trying 'til you run out of cake

It's a momentous day!

Hell did freeze over (Rush was nominated for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which I think makes many people very happy. Me? I've been a fan for decades, will still be a fan, and don't need anyone else to validate my fandom. I mean, obviously. Female? Rush fan? Yeah, that. So, nice, but also whatever.)

More importantly (to me, anyway), I'm out of cake. This brings us to the natural end of Out of the Kitchen.

It's time.

For those of you who are still interested in what I have to say (why?), there is good news. I have another blog! It is called When All This Actual Life Played Out. It's true that a picture is worth a thousand words, though periodically I seem to need a thousand words to explain the picture. In any event, it's pictures and words, though mostly pictures. Perhaps, if I'm motivated and/or bored, a recipe.

Remember, I do what I must because I can. That's kind of always been the point here.

But before I go, one last story. It's worth it, and I'll let you make of it what you will.

Back in March, the son and I were en route to his bus stop early one morning. As many of you know, and others might have figured out, I walked my kids to and from school from 2001 until 2011, and then just the son to the same school through June of 2012, because it served as the pick up spot for the bus that took him off to high school. Over the 11 years that we made that walk, we went through various permutations of time and who was being escorted when and where. The good part of those 11 years was all the chatter and laughter shared with my two children on our way to and/or from, dragging rolling backpacks and science projects, while the son insisted that I never, ever actually drive them to or from school even if it was pouring rain.

(I did drive when it was pouring rain. The downside of driving is that because of the way the streets are controlled, it actually took twice the time to drive that it did to walk. And the walk was nice. Except for when I had to deal with bad drivers ignoring us in the crosswalk. Things got a bit iffy then. I have a temper. And a camera. And a will to see wrongs righted.)

Anyway. A morning last March. I'd left the son off, and I was walking back home, enjoying the cool morning and the sun rising, and the birds and all that. As I walked down a side street, a car approached and pulled up alongside me. This, of course, is pretty much guaranteed to put my hackles up, especially at 6:55 am on a quiet street. The male driver put down his passenger side window and said, "Your son must be getting ready to graduate from high school."

I expected, "Where is the nearest Starbucks?" or "How do I get to the freeway from here?"

If there had been a roof for me to go through, I probably would have. Every klaxon known to motherhood was going off in my head. And to his credit, the man--a nice-looking man a few years older than me, driving a nice car--correctly interpreted the look on my face (those of you who actually know me understand I was not sporting a big, happy smile), and hurriedly added, "I've seen you walking your children to school for 10 or 11 years, and I've watched them grow up...I kind of feel like I grew up with you."

"Oh," I replied, still very uncomfortable with where all this was going.

"I'm a teacher," he continued, "and I guess your son was probably in second grade when I first started to see you walk here every day when I was driving to work. And he's grown up so much...and," here he laughed, "then there was the beard."

I thawed a bit, "Yeah, the beard."

"So, I guessed that he must be getting close to graduating."

"Yes," I told him. "In a few months."

"I'd like to get him something for graduation. It's like you guys have been part of my life, too, all these years. It was always good to see you laughing and talking while you walked..."

"That's very kind of you," I told him. "But..."

"Does he like Starbucks? You know, like just maybe a little gift card..."

And I thought. I thought about pedophiles and the ways that strangers gain people's trust for all the wrong reasons. And I thought that this might simply be a nice man who was very much on the level. And I thought about how his words could have easily come out of my mouth under similar circumstances for all the same reasons. I thought about how many times I've written right here about the strange and beautiful connections we make with one another in the oddest and most unexpected of ways.

Still, it made me edgy.

"Look," I said, and I tried to make my voice kind, "it's a very generous offer, but he really doesn't drink coffee or visit places like that. I do appreciate what you've said, though."

"Okay," he said, "I'll think of something."

Still uneasy, I texted the son the substance of the conversation when I got home, along with a description of the man and his car, figuring that it's best to cover all the bases. The son was also uneasy, but I pointed out it was within the realm of possibility that this was actually just a nice a person.

And I felt sad that I was so disinclined to trust others.

Time passed, as it will, and many mornings, I drove the son to his bus stop, but only because the boy was in a theater production and there was too much stuff to actually carry on foot.

After a few weeks, I was walking home one sunny morning, and the same car pulled over. The driver rolled down the passenger side window and the man handed me a small package.

"For your son," he said, and smiled.

"It's really kind of you," I told him.

He waved and drove off.

When the son got home that afternoon, I gave him the package. He looked at me, a little ill at ease. But he opened it and inside was a book, a children's book but very appropriate, and a brief note.

"To a mom and her son," it said.

It was very simple and contained a good deal of what the man had already told me along with the revelation that one his own sons had considered the university the son planned to attend. He went on to say, "...I always wondered how long [seeing us walk to school] might last. I regretted the day I might see you walking alone, because I could tell how much joy it brought your mom to walk with you. Many kids wouldn't allow their parents that simple pleasure.....good luck, enjoy the book, and never forget who was with you every step of the way, and I mean that literally."

It was an incredibly sweet and perceptive sentiment, a truly kind gesture.

We only saw the man one other time before the son's high school days ended, and he was driving in traffic, but he caught sight of us and I waved, smiling. He smiled back, hugely, and honked.

The son had written him a thank you note, but we never had the opportunity to give it to him. Probably, now that school is back in session, I should go down the street and wait to see if he drives by.

For this stranger, the simple fact of our existence meant something--something good and something nice. For him, too, my son's graduation was an ending.

Endings frequently are very sad. But they also open new doors, offer new possibilities and sometimes give us new knowledge that we might not have been privy to. The son finished a chapter of his life, but he's reveling in the new. He loves being at university and all the grand challenges and opportunities that have presented themselves. I miss him, but am enjoying his hilarious texts and the increased freedom his independence gives me.

Here then, is the end. But I am already looking forward to the beginnings, the next things. I know they are out there: the ones I've created, the ones I hope for, the ones still a mystery. As I wrote six years ago: "I've just made an enormous change in my life, and enormous changes must be acknowledged in similarly enormous ways. And anyway, I'm also enormously fickle and very easily bored, so I'll figure out the whole blogging thing, get bored, and start mass-producing scones or something. The kitchen part isn't figurative, by any means."

And it's not. I may be out of cake, but there are always scones.

Go listen to some good music: "Still Alive" from the album The Orange Box (Original Soundtrack) by GlaDOS and Jonathan Coulton. I do, of course, reserve the right to change my mind. But I don't think I'm going to.

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