Monday, October 28, 2013

Mother and child reunion

The oldest Huffman had been at her new college for around two months when the school invited us to its annual parents’ weekend, otherwise known as “Mom and dad, come visit and bring your checkbook.”
For a mom who had not seen her firstborn in about eight weeks — OK, 63.5 days — I was looking forward to the trip. Correction: I was pretty much dying to see our girl.
She’d left with barely a warning, and now she was living her new college girl life and I just had to clamp my own eyes on her to believe it. Plus I was sure she needed me for something.
Arriving in Boulder, Colo., we headed straight to see her at work at a local toy store. I figured her boss wasn’t expecting an emotional mother and child reunion between the Playmobil and Legos, so I tried to be cool when I walked in, but oh, seeing her again I had the best feelings in all the history of feelings.
I could hardly take my eyes off her. She looked good. She looked happy. She hadn’t starved, crashed her bike, gotten visible tattoos, dropped out of school or become homeless.
After she detangled herself from my mother-who-hasn’t-seen-her-daughter-in-63.5-days hug, we went to get lunch, where she even let me hold her hand for about 30 seconds, which was probably 23 seconds too long for her but three hours too short for me.
I wanted to pick her up and put her on my lap and squeeze her some more, only we had just gotten there and I was afraid she’d tell us to turn around and go right back home this instant.
She said she needed a bike fender and helmet, so she went back to work and we went to a bike store, where my husband got her fender and helmet plus the brightest bike light he could find.
It’s 400 lumens, my husband noted with satisfaction.
I’m not sure what a lumen is, but if 400 of them are illuminating our girl’s bike, that sounds pretty good to me. 
The next day her school invited us to an informational seminar about contemplative education, but we had bigger plans — a trip to SuperTarget.
We got fuzzy lined boots. We got shampoo. We got a can opener, a step stool, paper towels and a jumbo bag of Halloween candy. We got a furry rug for her floor and a hanging organizer for her closet. I tried to talk her into a handy underbed storage box but she declined. I guess College Girl is capable of figuring out her own underbed storage strategies from now on. Sigh.
We found a tool kit to install the bike fender that included screwdrivers and even a hacksaw. She said she wouldn’t need the hacksaw, but we got it anyway. Who knew when a fallen branch from a freak snowstorm would need to be sawed up for emergency kindling? She does live in the mountains, after all.
Cart filled, we stopped to get some breakfast at Starbucks inside the SuperTarget.
She and my husband ordered heated ham sandwiches.
Ahhh, she sighed, eating her sandwich.
Now I’m all warm inside, she said.
“We are, too,” said my husband.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Leave me out of it

For the past several years, I was under strict orders to leave the oldest Huffman out of this column. As a high-school student, she did not appreciate her mother broadcasting her so-called escapades, no matter how clever I thought I was being.
I get it. Most teens don’t want us moms blabbing about them to anyone — not to our friends, not to their grandparents — and definitely not in print and shared with thousands of strangers over breakfast.
So to keep the peace, I kept a lid on much of the high school years of the oldest girl.
Like the time she said she was going to sleep over at a girlfriend’s house and I found out that she, her friends and several b-o-y-s had instead gone camping at Lake Berryessa. Overnight. With tents. 
Or the time she and a girlfriend slept in her car in the parking lot at Napa Valley College after grad night because they were “too tired” to drive two miles home to our house.
Or how about that one semester when our girl, who happened to have spent more than a decade in Catholic schools, barely passed her religion class.
Yeah, I had to leave out stuff like that. What we writers do for our children.
But now, with oldest daughter at college one time zone away, I figure I have some wiggle room on our agreement.
There’s no Napa Valley Register sitting on her kitchen table each morning.
No teachers to comment during math class on my latest column.
No one to ask her if she is the sister in that one column I wrote about someone farting on someone else’s math book.
It’s not like I set out to embarrass them on purpose.
I like to think I poke more fun at myself in this column than I do our girls. I feel like I’m the one bumbling through motherhood.
They’re just along for the ride.
There have been a handful of times when I’ve been out with our girls and a reader has actually said something encouraging about this here column. How often does a mom get complimented in public, in front of her kids, and for something work related?
That’s the kind of role modeling our girls need. To see mom doing something she hopes to do well at, no matter how badly I fumble through my 500-word limit. That it’s OK to be more than just “mom.”
I wonder if the other two Huffman girls are worried mom’s column-writing attention will swing their way now that oldest daughter has physically relocated.
True, I have written an awful lot about the youngest Huffman’s bunny farm lately.
Middle daughter is lying low, but she just got her driver’s permit. And we are going to see the oldest daughter for an upcoming parents weekend at her college.
Just think of the column possibilities.