(who may or may not know how to surf the internet).
First, I'm barely gonna touch down on this broad topic, Ghost Mom, but since my shoes are soaked through today, my socks sopping wet, (at the moment I squish as I walk), and I just returned from squishing through a huge perfumey department store to look for some inexpensive waterproof shoes, I am reminded of you.
I am an idiot. We all know this. For so many, many reasons. I'll not trouble your ghostly self with too many of them, but just this, I wish I'd kept those fleece-lined waterproof boots you gave me for Christmas when I was in high school.
You took your motherly obligation seriously, yet material provisions were easier to manage--to check off the list of things you wanted me to carry into the adult world and have at the ready, armor for a cold and vicious universe. All of it, I didn't want or care about or appreciate. Some things I ridiculed, poked fun at; I didn't understand why I would ever need a decent pair of waterproof boots. As we've determined, I am an idiot.
Those boots, if I recall, kept feet warm and dry when submerged in a glacial lake of snow and ice for one hundred and seventy-six hours, (just one of numerous items you generously insisted I have). Since we lived in practically a sub-tropical climate I did not realize I'd ever have a need for them. I survived my first winter, when, through many twists in the knot of fate, I lived in Upstate New York, without decent boots, but damn, my feet were painfully cold and wet. I would have worn them today in this downpour if I'd had them, as I think they were also indestructible, so they'd surely, even now, still be wearable.
You were very proud of my solid-oak bedroom suite of furniture. It was stately and dark, and you figured the investment would last a lifetime. I gradually destroyed, sold, and discarded all six pieces: bed, desk, dresser, chest and three-drawer night stand. I didn't know how difficult it would be to replace them. Most of my furniture now is made of pressed pine mulch and hewn together with plastic pins and metal screws. Again, idiot.
You gave me an antique railroad-pocket watch, I think, because you sensed I wanted or needed a bit of history--I sold the relic for gas money when I was traveling with friends. (Of course, you found out and eventually gave me another, but engraved that one so I wouldn't sell it, and you were right, I didn't.)
I think, because you hoped, one day, I would attract and maintain the interest of a charming and sophisticated mate, that one teenage year you tried to give me at least a passing appreciation of wine (I didn't pay any attention whatsoever, except that drinking three glasses gave me a buzz).
High SAT scores (I skipped all the Test Prep classes, and reclined on a sun-warmed metal slide in the park, listening to Pink Floyd on my headphones as the sun set instead; also, months later, I was hungover and fell asleep during the actual SAT). I am paying for this now, as karma would have it, I've been long employed by that same Test Prep company in a tedious and underpaid job.
You tried to sign me up for instruction of all kinds, meant to either improve character, or potentially refine a young man. I refused all of them, never went to one lesson, not art or music, or whatever sport, even the golf and tennis lessons you paid for in advance. I also refused attempts at encouraging male influences of all sorts, and hid behind the dining hutch when the denim-overalled man from the Big Brothers organization showed up at the side door to take me fishing. He rang the bell three times, waited, then drove away. (I probably would never have participated in any group activities had I not been guilted outside into our yard by taunts of the neighborhood kids. Hey, did you have anything to do with them all using our side yard as a baseball diamond?)
Possessing the foresight that I would look like an oaf at weddings (and the many awards ceremonies I've attended), as my college graduation date approached, you pushed for me to own a tuxedo. This, I simply laughed at (or scoffed), since at the time I wore only ink-stained thrift-store cords and a crown of smoke from my hardpack of Winstons. Yes, Ghost Mom, you were right, because at two weddings, at least, I dressed in my one cheap, damaged, wrinkled suit, and the last, the bride's father glared at me the entire weekend as if I was going to steal the floral arrangements. (In case you're wondering, the one wedding where I did meet a future girlfriend, I was, indeed, wearing a tuxedo, rented, of course, and paid for by the groom's family.)
Still, there were a few objects I held onto, purely by dumb luck. Just one simple item, one of many that I could list, which probably altered the direction of this boy's life. Remember the quilted, flannel hunting shirt you gave me (for some unknown practical reason) when I was in Middle School, the one that was too big? It still hung unworn in my closet almost a decade later, in 1990, when, in college, and somewhat friendless, I pulled it off the hangar and tried it on, because everything I had to wear was dirty, stained or torn. It had a classic print, small, navy checks, a cross-hatched pattern, and to my surprise, it fit perfectly. It was warm like a fall jacket, but wore light, loose and comfortable like a shirt.
Walking to the store that same afternoon, a group of the cool, skater-painter-guitar-player-sculpter-and-could-rebuild-the-engine-of-a-'63-Valiant guys, (all wearing checkered-flannel shirts) approached me on the street. They were really friendly and may have asked me which Sub Pop bands I liked. Although I probably didn't know what a Sub Pop band was, we all became fast friends. Now, fifteen years later, I just returned from one of those guy's wedding. It was great fun, and I saw many wonderful, gorgeous people I care very much for. I didn't wear a tux, but, rather, a charcoal suit from Barney's my sophisticated wife helped me pick out. I didn't pay too much attention to the wines, although what I tasted was good, not too tannic, a nice aroma, I think it was a Pinot Noir.