I hit a deer Friday night. It somersaulted off my left front bumper and flew into the central Washington night. As if my day hadn’t been eventful enough, I punctuated it with an 11:55pm roadkill exclamation mark.
That morning Nick, Noah, and I packed the Dodge Ram pickup truck full of all Nick’s possessions and took off on the long drive north to Seattle. We all knew this day would come, and finally it was time to collectively wrap our minds around the moment when we would drive away from the memories of radio flyers careening down big hills, and tree forts built into century old cherry trees, and of a golden van transporting a quarterback, 3 linemen, a receiver, and a golfer around the county on epic adventures. As a parent you know it is coming but you can never fully understand that moment until you live it.
It is no fun having to parent a “grieving” child across the cab of a Dodge Ram pickup truck, a long legged Ethiopian between us, going down the highway at 70mph.
I was much better by the time we got out of Clark County only to lose it again when Nick spotted one of his best friends driving north on I-5, heading to his new volunteer firefighter position in Longview. Nick told me to speed up and I did. And for a good bit of time we drove side-by-side. Windows down. Best friends. Wingmen. Maverick and Goose. And then his friend signaled right, and with one last wave and “I love ya, man!” he was gone and we continued to stay the course. Heading north.
I wouldn’t give back that tearstain moment for anything in the world.
We arrived in Seattle a little after lunchtime. By that time the vibe of the city was beginning to creep into the cab of our pickup truck. It was exciting, this new adventure Nick was on the edge of jumping into. He is pledging a fraternity so our destination was greek row on the north end of campus. I knew exactly where I was going since I had been to his house before, but I was not prepared for what I was about to encounter next.
Pods of sorority girls. No, masses of sorority girls. Balloons. Daisy Dukes. Tank tops. Greek letters. Singing. Chanting. Blocking traffic. It was like we had rounded the corner of Seattle urban vibe and unwittingly driven right into the middle of the Sorority House Apocalypse. But instead of zombies with eyeballs hanging out of their sockets and jaws barely attached by a tendon thread our Dodge Ram truck filled to the rim with a dresser, a desk, a bike, a suitcase, and four big plastic rubbermaid bins was surrounded by perky, bubbly, cheery fresh faced young ladies who were obviously thrilled to be a part of the U of W Rush week. So, as we became (for the 3rd time) entrapped at another intersection (this time at the corner of 47th and 20th) while we waited for the Tri Delts to pose for a group photo in the middle of the road I did what any mom would do in that situation. I madly blurted out a speed review of the facts of life. In the time it took for the last tiny tank top with three triangles across the chest to clear the road I had made my point. Maybe not as clearly as I would have liked. But in my mind I could rest at ease knowing my 18 year old son knew exactly where his mama stood.
I wouldn’t give back that frantic mama bear moment for anything in the world.
Noah’s eyes were WIDE by the time we had fought our way through the latest episode of Walking Keds and found safe haven in Nick’s house parking lot. I’m 100% certain they weren’t wide with fear though, if you know what I mean. We spent the next three hours getting Nick unloaded and set up, meeting his fraternity brothers, and just enjoying our last moments together before we had to say good-bye.
And then, there was that good-bye. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Its a secret society whose initiation into it is heart wrenching. But when it has all been said and done, there is something extremely gratifying about seeing my son bound up the steps of his new house two at a time because HE is ready for this. I may not be. But HE is.
I wouldn’t give back that “go free” moment for anything in the world.
The tears began to fall as I drove away but the soft grasp of Noah’s hand on mine made it just a little easier because with that touch he reminded me that I may have just pushed my second baby out of the nest but my job as a mom was still long from being over.
I pointed our emptied Dodge to the east and drove across the Cascade mountains to begin the second half of my day. Spending time with my Hannah in the middle part of the state.
The plan was to meet up with Hannah and her best friend Malia. Malia’s housemates weren’t moved in yet so Malia had extra space for Noah and I to spend the night. Unfortunately a first of the month miscommunication between Malia and her landlord led to her power being turned off just about the time we showed up on that late Friday afternoon. It was all good though.
Who needs electricity anyway?
FYI on a DIY: A light made of a plastic milk jug that had to be emptied anyway because the milk would go sour by Monday and a headlamp turned inward really does work, just like Pintrest said it would.
We sat under the glow of the 1/2 gallon milk jug for several hours just talking.
I wouldn’t give back those dusk into nightfall off the grid moments for anything in the world.
As the night grew older we decided to drive to Manastash ridge to see if we could catch the Northern Lights. We left the the smoothness of the pavement and bumped our way up a dusty mountain road until the glow of the city lights disappeared. And we began our wait. We had no idea what we were really looking for but still, we waited. And we waited some more. We never did see the Aurora Borealis that night. Colorado might have. But we didn’t.
I wouldn’t give back those star gazing, universe blanketing moments for anything in the world.
We headed down the mountain a few minutes before midnight. And that’s when I hit the deer, just a mile or so after the dirt turned to pavement again. It came out of nowhere. We all saw it but it was too late to do anything. To us, and our truck, the damage was non existent. To the deer, well, she wasn’t so lucky.
In all my moments of that moving my son into college day, the happy the sad the good and the bad, I can honestly say this single moment was the only one I would give back. Without hesitation or pause.
In a single heartbeat.