Moms are weird, right? Even if they're great mothers, especially if they're great, they're still pretty wacky. My mom once publicly threatened to beat me with a length of dry sausage. She seized up with laughter when a police officer mistook the aromatherapy materials she left in my car for drugs and I was handcuffed on the side of the highway. She always pronounces the "s" in "Illinois." On a recent trip to Rome, she wanted to see the Travolta Fountain. "You mean the Trevi Fountain, mom?" "No, the Travolta Fountain. The one in all the movies." This is why I adore her endlessly.
I'm in South Austin, sitting in a coffee shop that's really just a bar with coffee. Since I got here, the lights have gotten dimmer and the crowd has gotten louder; this is full-tilt nightlife. That doesn't seem to bother the two young mothers at the next table, who are laughing over their large purses and a table full of glasses. They are discussing the joys and challenges of motherhood, though only in the abstract: their daughters are turning seven-year-olds' pirouettes in the dark parking lot, unsupervised and out of their mothers' lines of sight.
I appreciate a good measure of parental aloofness. In Iceland, babies are left in their prams outside of shops and are almost never stolen; small children bike madly through their neighborhoods all night long. There are playgrounds built out of rusty construction equipment, with slides and jungle gyms that look like horror-movie props. Yet the nation seems to survive with most of its limbs intact.
My mother trusted me not to get myself into too much trouble, and I somehow managed to avoid falling down a well or taking up with a crowd of shady aromatherapy dealers. She gave me independence and the chance to develop some self-reliance, and I'm grateful. She even let me become a poet; some people might call that negligent indulgence, but it seems more like faith. Sure, sometimes when I call her, I can tell that she'd rather be watching CSI: Miami than talking to me, but who wouldn't? I'll still be here at the commercial break, mom, and I'll still love you.