Mothers of America, let your kids go to the movies!

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.

An honest-to-god Icelandic playground.  It is full of nails, splinters, and fun.

An honest-to-god Icelandic playground.  It is full of nails, splinters, and fun.

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.