I suppose a 20-something son would feel awkward around his mom no matter how hard she tried to speak his lingo, to know his music and to otherwise make her way into the tiny crevices of his world. She’s still old, still carrying her generation’s mores and he can’t help but scramble around for a foothold in any conversation with her. It won’t matter how hard they both try to offer one up.
She’s so physically familiar and lovingly indulgent, yet he experiences her in a way that makes his skin crawl slightly and his lips part, blurting out words he didn’t plan to say. Being his mother, she’s innately different from virtually anyone else on the planet to him, and this throws him off guard. Worse, he knows she knows he doesn’t like being in the dark.
He loves her, of this he’s certain, but the son isn’t sure how to embrace it himself let alone express it to her. Her idea of sharing opens up any and all subjects of conversation, causing him to lose direction. She can’t help that mothers naturally spread the emotional floodgates wide open, spontaneously and all at once. It’s simply her genetic code that makes her shoot questions and burrow in for gray matter and the tiny details he hasn’t even considered, let alone thought relevant to remember.
She will say what she’s been up to and try to instigate conversations on current events like racial profiling, public security versus personal privacy, healthcare and welfare and women’s reproductive rights. She will ask what he thinks about it all and then dig in for questions about his overall health, his social life, the college courses he’s been taking and what he has learned living on his own. She will share personal tales in a well meaning, didactic way. He will consider her 70s and 80s time-warp point of view passe.
But wanting to be the good son, and to please this ever present, forgiving person in his life, he’ll be patient, protective, agreeable and understanding. He’ll easily lie and say everything is “OK,” just so she won’t worry, and then he will download her into a place for upgrading later. She’ll go there readily, because she knows he knows she will wait for an eternity if need be.
More than anything else, he knows if he gives her an inch of information, she’ll take paragraphs from him and eventually peel away at his carefully crafted armor of independence. She doesn’t really want this, but can’t help herself, and when directed, will gladly close the door on personal subjects, change the entire font, increase the type size and skip to the next page. She’s adept when it comes to cutting and pasting until the phrasing is more appropriate and timely. She’ll pass up any deadline to wait for him. He will love her forever for this.
For her intention isn’t to control, only to know her son, to find out what motivates him and to help him discover the strength of his own passions. She knows he will need them to make the difficult decisions that life will most certainly throw his way. She knows they will eventually tip-toe around the concepts of the present and the future. They will agree to lean in toward subjects of hard work, dedication, hope and luck. They both know it will eventually come down to the taboo question of, “What’s next after college?”
Again, the son won’t tell the truth. He won’t divulge his secrets, that he’s worried about the future, afraid he won’t be able to finish what he’s started, to give way to new discoveries, become financially independent, fall in love and make others happy. Even when the mom says she, too, feared all of the above and more, and then some, and is still challenged every day to look less at the injustices and inequalities in the world and more toward her family, the beauty around her and hope for the future, her fear can’t help him.
He’s 20-something after all. He’s climbing his own mountain now.