A while back, Lyndsay insisted on taking me on a shopping spree. Maybe it was because she just loves me so much, and maybe it was because she just wanted to spend time with me. Maybe it was because she has realized in her beyond-her-years wisdom that I have sacrificed whatever I can to be her mom, and she wanted to give me something back as a token of her gratitude.
Quite possibly it could have been that lately I look like a frump-a-dump and she felt the need to intervene.
Whatever the impetus, once I got over my embarrassment at her insistence to treat me to some new clothes, we had a great time together. Of course, being with her is always a good time, but you know how it can be more comfortable to be on the giving end, rather than on the receiving end of the deal.
Being a mother to teenagers has upset the balance of my security in a lot of ways. When I had little ones, I used to feel just fine about myself. What I wore, what I said, what I did--all of it was just me in my groove. I walked with a bounce in my step, tossed my hair with a flip of my head, and took pride in the little duckling children following behind me dutifully. Maybe even admirably. Now? I feel like a dork all over again.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned to Dylan that every day on my walk, I walk right past his school and I think about him and wonder what he's doing. He responded, "Well, first period I'm in the library doing service. You should walk down to see me." (He asked for it!)
So, that day I did.
I debated, really I did. I thought back and forth in my mind as I walked, "No, I don't want to embarrass him."
"But then again, if I do stop in, it might really mean something to him."
Trying to be a good mother, I swung left and headed down the stairs of his school to sign in on the visitor sheet and get my yellow sticker. In the library, the librarian told me he had gone to run an errand and would be back shortly.
I read books. And waited. Like a good mom, who wants her kid to know that she thinks about him.
When he did finally arrive, he wasn't so elated to see me. He didn't rush over to me, pick up his short little mother and swing her around with glee. He didn't pull me around by the arm to introduce me to his friends and show me around the library.
Instead, he stood in the doorway dumbfounded, and he called me 'Jenna'.
And when I bounded over to him with a happy face, he was way too busy for the likes of me. He wasn't rude, per se, but he was definitely busy. So, deflated and humiliated, I scooted out the door. And maybe I cried the rest of the walk home. Oh well, I consoled myself. He can deal with how he was embarrassed by me. But he can't say that I didn't make the effort to be interested in his life.
A few days later, Lyndsay asked me to come to school to pick her up, as well as several kids from her Spanish II class, and bring them to our house to film a fake earthquake newscast they had to do for a final project. I had never met any of the other kids, but they piled into the van and I took them home. Every now and then I told a funny story or cracked a joke, trying to get something--anything--out of those kids. Nothing. Just silence.
When we pulled into our driveway, I turned around to look at them and I said, with a very serious face (although I was kidding), "Okay, so if anything turns up missing in the next week, I'm gonna know it was one of you kids, got it?"
More silence. But only for a millisecond until Lyndsay swung around in her seat with the widest eyes I've ever seen and butted in, "She's just kidding! That's just what she does. She's just joking!" And then she glared at me and got out of the car.
When the filming was done and they'd all gone home, she cornered me. "Mom! How could you say that to them?"
"What?" I said. "I was just kidding around! It was funny!"
"Mom, they were all Mexican and black! They thought you were saying that because they're Mexican and black they were gonna steal stuff from the white people!"
Oh boy. "What?" Clearly I am clueless about the seriousness of the race and class distinctions in Los Angeles, even though I went to a multi-racial high school. "No! I meant because they are teenagers! I don't care what race they are!"
"Well, that's not what they are going to think you meant! But don't worry, I think I fixed it when I told them you were just joking."
I apologized profusely. Mentally I slapped myself upside the head repeatedly at my idiotic attempts to be cool or funny. Usually I do okay. But lately it seems that I can't hit anything but a foul ball.
It's as though suddenly my world has shifted. I am no longer cool. After all my hard work to dig my way out, I am a dork again, just like I started out. I am now filled with the same insecurities that I had in junior high. I second guess everything I wear or say. If I bust out in song or dance, I look around in shame to make sure I am truly alone and not about to ruin someone's life or reputation. They mean well, I think. And in time, I am told, it will pass.
In the meantime, I will tread carefully. And occasionally, break out in song. Just to spite them.
And one day, someday, I will be cool again.