Brand building through storytelling

As long as I’m a mother…

Around 11:30 last night, as I lay in bed with the duvet pulled up to my chin, a noise pulled me back from the soft, sweet edges of sleep. It was the wind, knocking against the windows of the downtown condo where we live. Oh, yes, of course. The storm. A mean one, all the forecasters had said. A night to stay home if you possibly could, and off the road if you knew what was good for you.

I thought of my son on the highway, driving to his girlfriend’s house from a family Christmas party. His father and I had been safe at home for hours, but we are a modern family and our grandson, whom Ben had brought to the festivities much to everyone’s delight, lives with his mother in a town well off the main highway. So Ben had lots of extra driving to do and was still out there on the road. Through the slats of the blind, I could see the obliterating whiteness of the winter’s first heavy snow. If it looked this bad in the middle of Toronto, what was Ben seeing through the windshield wipers?

Of course he had a cell phone. Should I call? No, no—he needs both hands on the wheel. Didn’t I read somewhere that cell-phoning drivers are every bit as dangerous as the drinking kind? Besides, who am I to worry my son with my worry? He’s a level-headed guy; he’ll take it slow. I rolled over, straining for sleep. Not a chance. My husband was already snoring in front of the TV, so I was the one who rang the cell phone. Please, let him answer. If I get that damn message, I’ll fear the worst.

He answered, sounding tired but steady. Yes, it was bad out there. But not impossible, not by a long shot. Another 10 minutes, and he’d be at his girlfriend’s place. I fell back into bed and slept until morning.

When Ben was in his teens more than 15 years ago, a rambunctious but trustworthy kid who rode the subway to parties all over the city, I would listen at night for the click of his key in the front-door lock. In the middle of a dream, I still waited for that reassuring sound that said, “It’s okay, Mom. I’m home and I’m safe.”

After Ben left home for university, I learned not to worry about where he was, and with whom. I’d never know, which was surely just as well, so why torture myself? Instead of listening for Ben’s key, I listened to my own thoughts for the first time in my life. I discovered who I could become without asking myself every day what my child needed from me, as every mother does while she has a child under her roof. As Ben grew into manhood, I grew into my empty-nest life as a magazine editor. I could lavish my attention on the job without fretting about the girl who had spurned my son or the coach who had cut him from the basketball team. Oh, the freedom!

I’ve discovered that kind of freedom isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be. In fact, I doubt that it exists for those of us with families and friends. I think of Robert Frost‘s lovely and resonant sonnet, “The Silken Tent,” in which the billowing of a woman’s spirit is anchored by the ropes and guys (in both senses of the word?) that anchor the tent to the earth with “countless silken ties of love and care.”

As long as I have a mind, I will sometimes worry about my son. That’s exactly as it should be, this Christmas season and forever.

Posted by Rona

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