Boy Count: 4
Tuesday, I had an early morning meeting, and the clock was just shy of 11am when I returned to the cave. Three of Warren’s friends were visiting from Waterloo. One of them, Palmer, was nestled in a corner of the couch. A giant tooth-white grin signaled he was awake enough for a morning chat.
“Ya,” he said, giving me background information on his hangover-free state, “I just can’t do it like I used to.”
“It’s a good thing to grow out of high school drinking habits,” I said. “I know people my age that never did. Not such a good life later on.”
On he went, “My girlfriend can’t drink anyway, so it makes it pretty easy. My family thinks she’s just what I need.”
We laughed. Back in Waterloo, there were plenty of times Palmer had spent the night and stumbled his way up the basement stairs in the morning, avec a very obvious hangover and brain-knocking headache.
Not this morning, which was the first of their weeklong visit. Now, what about the other three boys?
Boy #2, Martin, seemed to be MIA. Palmer explained that he’d gone out to explore the city at 9am. In Waterloo, Martin does the early morning show at 570 News, and his work day customarily begins at 3am. 8am was a big sleep-in for him, even on vacation.
Scott, Boy #3, was still asleep in Warren’s room. I considered his wake up time legit since he’s a chef, and as such, lives his days and nights reversed.
My own Boy #1, Warren, stood at the stove, cooking his breakfast eggs before heading to his afternoon shift at Jane’s Next Door, a cafe up the street.
Wow. I’d been expecting mayhem. High-jinks. Careful negotiation around the four, six foot plus young men sharing my cave for a week, not to mention an all-out eradication of refrigerator contents, in the ways of the old days.
Instead, the cave was calm and quiet. The boys had gone grocery shopping upon Monday arrival, filling the fridge with food. They’d imbibed of alcohol in a legit drinking establishment that night and not awakened me on their late return home. In the wee hours, they’d taken turns shushing Palmer, to prevent a rise to the teenage-boy-pre-voice-change-shrill that used to wake me from two floors below, at the Waterloo homestead.
Hold the cow, something strange going on in the Halifax hood.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In November, when Warren first mentioned a friend coming for a visit during Reading Week, it was only one, Scott. In early January, it was two when Palmer decided to come. Mid-January, Warren posed a hypothetical possibility, “Ma, what would you think if Palmer came for the week too?”
Good question. Could four 23-year-old young men, one dog and one mama co-exist in 500 square feet for one week?
It wasn’t as if I hadn’t had a large crew in the flat before. But that was family, and I could boss them around. On the other hand, could I really say no to his request?
Here’s the deal. I dance around the question of whether I moved to Halifax because my son was living here, and while the answer is no, I can’t say it wasn’t a factor in my decision. Admittedly, residing with my 23-year-old son is pushing the parenting envelope. But I seem to be getting away with it.
Part of the reason I’m pulling it off, I think, is that I try to live more as ‘roomies’ than mother and son. What that means is that I (attempt to) refrain from excess lectures and don’t put the mom-foot down at things he could do with a regular roomie. Course, doing his laundry and buying all the food doesn’t hurt either. In exchange, I get to hang out with my son for one more year, a mom redux let’s say, at a point in my life where I can also enjoy it.
Back in the day, raising kids was a blur that accompanied the shemozzle of 30s’ angst and 40s’ middle age’isms, part and parcel of a single mom battling her way up the socio-economic ladder, while taking three sons from diapers to car keys.
About the time the 50s’ insight arrived that—No—I will never again read small print without readers and—Yes—girlfriends are the best gift a mother of three sons could ever hope for, I was ready to dab that last square in my mom-raising-a-brood Bingo card.
And the prize for a fully dabbed card? Why, three sons launched into the world.
Privacy! Freedom! 24/7 car keys! These would all be within my reach, once again.
But then one day, in the middle of a rant about feminism or government bureaucracy or one of the many topics I soapbox on: Bombshell. If a mom freaks out in a house without boys, will anyone hear her?
Fast forward to now: Things are much better with a boy in the house, even if getting one back necessitated a monumental cross-country heave. I figure though, if I continue to play my cards right, as I have so far, I’m assured seven more lovely months of living with my son ahead, until September when he leaves Halifax (and me) to travel the world.
“Heck ya,” I said to Warren, “They can all come.”
The crew arrived on Monday.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Fours days in, and they’re influencing my thinking in new and novel ways.
The first night, the four hulking forms took over the kitchen table as they figured out what to do for the evening, a process that, naturally, involved huddling over phone(s). While they researched their options onscreen, I noticed an unmistakable Tinder swipe. (And no, I’ve never done it. But my nephew Spencer showed me when he was a’ Tinder’ing).
“Hey, are you guys on Tinder?” I asked.
“Yah,” was the answer.
Interesting. No embarrassment. Nonchalance. I thought Tinder was a nasty hook up stratagem.
Martin straightened me out. “I use it to connect with others, and sometimes, if I go to a bar, I can meet a person there. Maybe make a lifetime friend.”
Hook up culture aside, could this app actually be a “let’s hang out in a crowd and be friends” tool too? Maybe Tinder was a Millennial Coles Notes way to create warm sales call situations in bars, as opposed to the cold sales calls pick up scenes of my generation, often prefaced by “Hey. You wanna beer?”
That kinda maybe made sense. Was a realignment of my middle-aged assessment of “Tinder—BAD” to “Tinder—GOOD?” necessary?
I pondered this thought until Palmer piped in on Martin’s ‘lifetime friend’ comment, suggesting instead, “or a night-time friend Martin” And they laughed really hard.
So, maybe not.
What was also interesting as the week has progressed was that they didn’t seem to mind being around me for bits of time, in spite of the close proximity, and they talked to me in a for-a-mom-you’re-okay kind of way.
Course, to help facilitate this, I did limit interrogations to ten open-ended questions or less during a single conversation, and as best I could, pulled back on the “when I was your age” and “what are you doing with your life” lectures.
When I found myself spiralling, I self-banished to my room, sat on my bed, counted to ten, and repeated the mantra: I’m not their mom. I’m not their mom. I’m not their Mom.
So far it’s been working, and I have two new FaceBook friends now, Scott and Martin. (Palmer and I were already friends.)
Thus far in the visit, I’ve been living my life as per usual, except with a some unexpected sugar on top.
Tuesday night, out for dinner with Chaps and about to tuck into my Lobster Soup, I looked up from both bowl and conversation to see a familiar trio coming in the front door. In trooped Warren, Sara and Scott. Chef Scott knew Edna, a restaraunt up the street from the cave, happened to be on the list of Canada’s Best 100 Restaurants, and it was on his hit list of places to eat in Halifax.
They sat at a table close to us, and when we were finished our dinner, we scooted over to join them. The five of us ended up closing the place down, albeit, in an early middle-aged 50s’ timeframe, before 11pm.
Wednesday, Scott, Martin and Palmer went sight-seeing while Warren was at work. End of day when they all returned home, they piled onto the couch, told me about their adventures, and jabbed away on controllers (Super Smash Bros of course). Next came YouTube videos (Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee and Will Farrell’s SNL audition–links to both at the end of the post. LOL hilarious). Later, Palmer helped Warren pick out an outfit for dinner, and then the ritual wrestling match began, not easy in a cave. At least they didn’t break anything. Off they went to Edna again for dinner, to return later with three Propeller Growlers and plans to game hard with Smash and then go out again.
One night of broken-mama-sleep later, I awoke this morning to a familiar sight, a jumble of boy-shoes at my front door. When I put on the kettle and ground the beans for my 6am coffee, Palmer and Martin, sleeping in the one room containing the kitchen and everything else, groaned ever so slightly, but didn’t move a smidge.
The weekend adventures are yet to come, and I’m looking forward to what they’ll get up to. I’m going to buy a pair of earplugs and stow them in my night-table, just in case.
It’s up close and personal when sharing tiny spaces. Secrets and spats have no place in a cave. To make it work, all have to bend and flex, move out of the way occasionally, speak up at times (or yell in my case), while remembering that most everything in life is temporal and will inevitably pass. So smiles and laughter, liberally applied, whenever possible.
I feel pretty lucky about this week and being able to check in, full-time, on where this crew of young men are right now.
They seemed to have gone from six years old to more than six feet tall in a blink, and they’re sitting in that sweet spot, teetering between their families of origin, and the new ones they’ve yet to know. I wish sometimes I could hold them here, for just a bit longer. But of course, that’s impossible. Time stays on plan, while boys are busy becoming men.
This becoming men looks to me like an evolutionary process. Sometimes I think boys grow into men because of their parents and sometimes in spite of their parents. It’s probably more a bit of both. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you might open your eyes and find yourself in them middle of one of the work-in-progress magical moments.
When it happens, stand aside, and just take it in.
Cast of Characters…
When I grow up I was to… live with my mom
Best thing about mom: I get to live with my her.
Scott (Skawt) Alexander
When I grow up I want to be… happy and successful and in a career choice I’m happy about and beat Martin at Mario Soccer every time we play.
Best thing about mom: She puts up with my crap and she loves me and I love her.
When I grow up I want to be… a mountain goat.
Best thing about mom: She’s my best friend.
When I grow up I want to be… happier and better at everything that Skawt.
Best thing about mom: She loves me.
Funny Links: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Will Farrell – http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/will-ferrell-mr-ferrell-for-the-last-time-were-going-to-ask-you-to-put-the-cigar-out
Will Farrell SNL Audition – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NmzN448J7E
Music selection: Spencer Clerk
Queen – You’re My Best Friend
The Doors – Wintertime Love