I was drifting off to sleep in the backseat, sandwiched on five inches of seat between the car door, two pillows, a bag containing a box of Oreos, an extension cord, and socks, a duffel bag, a futon and a television. My head slumped forward onto a plastic covered mattress pad that I held in my lap. And I had to go to the bathroom. I heard the uh oh from the front seat, and knew immediately that it was an uh oh of one of the most unfortunate kinds.
My husband slowly pulled over to the right side of the interstate, and the three of us — my husband, son and I — waited patiently for the officer to appear at the passenger’s side window.
“Can you tell me, Mr. Flynn, why you were speeding?” the gentleman asked after my husband handed him his license, to which my husband readily replied, “We are on our way to move our son into the dorm for his first year of college at the University of Georgia and we are running a little late.”
A pause. A minute or two more. We were back on our way. Did we get a ticket?
All I can say is, he must have been a Florida fan.
“Maybe you should set the cruise control,” I suggested from my cave in the backseat. Silence. Obviously he didn’t want suggestions from the peanut gallery. I shifted on my tiny patch of car seat and contemplated breaking open the box of Oreos to calm my stress. Fighting the urge, I tried, instead, to close my eyes again. That’s when they started coming — thoughts ... questions ... dozens of them. I was about to drop my son off at college for the very first time. He would be on his own. Had I taught him everything, told him everything he needed to know?
It was the worst case of verbal diarrhea I have ever had. Questions. Dozens of them. Spewing out of my mouth in record speed. Was I yelling? I don’t even know. I couldn’t help it, couldn’t control it. I frightened myself.
“If you need cash, get some cash.”
“If it rains, wear a rain coat.”
“Will you use an umbrella? Oh, no. I forgot to pack you an umbrella. Should we stop and get you an umbrella?”
“I bought you plenty of soap. If you need more soap ... be sure you get more soap.”
“Wear those shoes in the shower so you don’t get a disease. Do you know what a disease looks like? It looks bad.”
“Change your sheets. Watch out for strange people. If there’s a fire alarm, go outside.”
I took a breath. My husband, Mr. Lead Foot, looked over at our son and chimed in.
“If you get hungry, eat something.”
Go ahead, I said, make fun of me. Only, I wasn’t very tough sounding from my cramped hole in the backseat.
Five hours later, he was all moved in. Bed made. Clothes put away. Futon and television in their places. Rain coat hung up. Soap stored in its appointed cubby.
“If you need more soap ... buy soap,” I said, choking back a sob.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” he said and gave me a hug.
Thirty minutes later we were on our way back home, minus one.
“Should I call and remind him not to put metal in the microwave?” I asked. Where that came from, I have no idea.
“I think you should call him and tell him you are crazy,” my husband said.
“Do you ... think ... he’ll remember ... to eat?” I asked. He looked at me.
“He is 6 foot 3 and weighs 220 pounds. I think he will remember to eat.”
Maybe I’ll make him a care package when I get home, I decided. Maybe put an umbrella in there. And some soap. And snacks.
Which reminds me, I hope he remembers to eat.
So glad I didn’t eat his Oreos.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.