The Next Best Thing to Being There
By Rose Ann Sinay
Several times a week, I take a walk with my son through the streets of Boston on his way to work. We start out at 9:00 am. This time of year he wears his down jacket and gloves. I fuss at him for not wearing a hat. I’m in my warm, blue robe. We stop at his favorite coffee shop where he orders a large coffee – black – and a toasted bagel with extra cream cheese.
Along the way, we discuss movies, headlines and the upcoming weekend. We debate politics, argue over book reviews, and critique the state of the economy. We have fixed our government’s flaws and righted the world’s wrongs many times over. There are moments that my opinions are highly regarded. It feels good. I have waited a long time to be a friend and contemporary, instead of the parent and disciplinarian. Occasionally, when our views differ, he conveniently remembers that he is talking to his mother. It seems to explain my lapse in judgment.
Our conversation is interrupted by greetings as my son acknowledges people on the streets that he sees every day. The homeless guy on the corner always says, “Hey Buddy,” as my son passes, and sometimes, a short chat ensues. I take this time to sip my coffee and nibble the English muffin that is not on my diet. My son, then, continues our discussion, picking up where he left off. I find that amazing, since I’ve already forgotten what we were talking about.
We stop at the convenience store on his route where he buys a few scratch off lottery tickets. The register clerk greets him like a good friend. I bite my tongue to keep from commenting – anything over a dollar on the game of chance is too high stakes for me.
As we approach his workplace, we part ways. He gets on with his day. I get on with mine.
Three hours later, I am in the car with my daughter in sunny California as she maneuvers through bumper to bumper traffic on her way to her Los Angeles office. She’s attired in a summery dress and heels. I’ve changed into comfortable jeans, a sweatshirt and sneakers.
Our conversation is punctuated with occasional honks and mild expletives as she lays out her day from a 9:00 am (Pacific Time) meeting to what she is going to pick up for dinner. Where my walk with my son is abstract and in the moment, her ride is full of the future; where she will be next week, next month, in five years.
She pulls into a local Starbucks where she orders a Skinny Caramel Macchiato and an egg white/spinach wrap. My mouth waters, so I pour a little extra cream and put real sugar into my coffee.
This past summer, there was talk of babies (grandchildren!). She was going to name her first born Peyton Rose – Rose after me – which made me very happy. This month, she talks about moving to New York and renting an apartment that allows pets. She and her husband could adopt a puppy from a rescue center there. They could call him Herbie (really?). The baby idea with the lovely name seems to be forgotten in their soon-to-be-abandoned beach apartment.
I am learning not to ask too many questions, and I try to keep my unsolicited advice to myself. Note the verbs: learning and trying. No matter how old your children are, parents feel the need to impart their wisdom/experience. Who would have thought that it could be a satisfying experience to simply relax and listen? I’m discovering how to be patient. It’s just a matter of time before my questions are answered.
I go to places normally impossible. My cell phone whisks me from my kitchen table in North Carolina to walk the streets of Boston through my son’s eyes, and ride that stretch of highway between Redondo Beach and LA, on speaker phone, with my daughter. It keeps my family connected with everyday minutia that occupies space around the big events in our lives. It’s the filler time…it’s the mortar between the bricks…it’s the next best thing to being there. My kids will cringe when they read this string of clichés. They will shake their heads at my writing faux pas. My children will say I am idealistic and sappy, but I know they will smile. I can’t wait for that conversation.
About this writer
- Rose Ann Sinay lives in North Carolina with her husband and dog where she spends her time writing. Her children graciously continue to provide her with moments worth preserving.