i ran away from home the summer after i graduated high school, which some folks might refer to as "going away to college," but in my case, higher education was an afterthought. i wanted to be closer to my friends (mostly older) and the vegetarian restaurants i liked and the places where i went to watch bands play. at the time, i didn't have a car, and a night out meant borrowing my mother's silver camaro. it was pretty embarrassing to show up at stinkweeds on a friday night behind the wheel of that beast. so, i finished high school and i was ready to move to tempe and ride a bike.
i didn't sit around and wait for the fall like all those other lazy college-bound kids i knew, either. my mother hadn't even had my graduation photos developed when i moved all of my worldly belongings (a closet full of thrift store clothes, some sleater-kinney records) the 35 miles across town, trading my West Valley suburb for the academic establishment of the East Valley, littered with empty beer cans and sharp sorority pins, controlled by the dark lord, Sparky the Sun Devil.
i spoke to my mother on the phone at least once a week. i still saw her regularly -- a couple of times a month, usually with a basket of freshly soiled laundry in tow. when i moved to los angeles in my mid-20s, our communication dropped to a bi-weekly phone call, and now as i'm about to enter my 30s, we're averaging a phone call a month, a couple of visits a year. but that's what happens as we get older, right? we have less to say to our parents. we don't need them so much because we can, in most cases, afford to do our own laundry.
i didn't communicate with my mother at all from january through mid-march, which is a Gloom family record, and particularly noteworthy as i spent that stretch of time hobbling around and feeling sorry for myself and whining about this forced sedentary lifestyle to anyone who would listen (thank you Internet, my great confidante).
when my mother finally got me on the phone a few weeks ago, after scolding me for not calling in months, she asked how i'd been, and i almost immediately started crying.
"not so great actually...."
i came clean about my ankle, but following her typical motherly expressions of concern ("meggie! oh no! you poor thing!") came the indignation.
"i can't believe you didn't tell me about this. i would have gone to LA and taken care of you. i would have driven you around. i would have helped you pay your rent if you needed to take time off work. how come you didn't come to me? i'm your mother. that's what i'm here for."
but the thing is, it never occurred to me to go to her for help. i knew i was in a lousy situation, but i never once thought my mother could get me out it. i couldn't tell her this, of course, so all could i say was: "i don't know."
"well, that's it. i'm giving you my car."
"your car? but i don't want a car."
"what if you break your leg next time? you gonna ride your bicycle around on that?"
she had a point.
and so that is how the hollywood librarian came to be the not-so-proud owner of a purple 2002 saturn sc. not quite as horrifying as the silver camaro of my adolescence, but still pretty flashy by my bookish standards (new bumper sticker: "i'd rather be driving a suburu").
but guys, listen, just because i have a car, doesn't mean that i am going to turn into a car person (i hope). there are several reasons to resist this transformation. i don't know if you've heard the news, but A) cars are bad for the environment B) traffic in L.A. blows C) i am a driver of questionable aptitude D) gas is fucking expensive. like, almost $4 a gallon. who knew? so much has changed since i was last navigating this rat race at speeds exceeding 17 mph.
i probably sound like an ingrate, but i'm not. i feel very fortunate that my mother did this kind thing for me. in fact, i am reminded of her great generosity every time i slide into my new purple bookmobile, and my nostrils are filled with the familiar scent of her perfume mingled with stale cigarette smoke. i even spent $100 to have the upholstery shampooed, but to no avail. i suspect her presence will always be smelt.