An Open Letter to My Son’s Friends at the Prom After-Party Weekend
May 14, 2018
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May 17, 2016
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February 6, 2019
An Open Letter to My Son’s Friends at the Prom After-Party Weekend
May 14, 2018
You are all prime, projectile, and unparalleled. I see you as you cannot see yourselves, perfection wrapped in unmarred skins and lattice-sided bikinis, late Spring sun shining high and hot not just above you but also emanating from within you. Pulled behind the boat, whipped against the wake, tossed high in the air and holding on tight and your faces are smiling, sort of grimacing in the wind. With your Thumbs-Up and your words you shout Faster! but just below the facade, you are scared as hell, anticipating the blessed release of Letting Go. Your craft slams once more, and you lose your grip. Hard you hit and fast you submerge and then, like otters sleek and gliding you resurface again. Over and over you ride the waves, taking turns with the people you want to share one final boat ride with. And finally, spent, you climb back on board.
But what’s this? Oh no! The boat has stalled and cannot be coaxed to start again. You’re all Gilligans on this Minnow, and the whole motley crew of you bobs on the lake, awaiting rescue. You curse and blame and hug and comfort each other and look for relief from the sun. You drink all the water on board and wonder if Uber can drone-deliver a pizza, because after all, you have dropped a pin on your location in the middle of the lake which is what allows rescue to eventually arrive in the unlikely and welcome form
I know this, because I was there in the boat too. And hand-to-God, I have never been happier to see a hefty, fully tattooed guy, looping coils of rope arm over arm. Derek brought our afternoon of cussing like, well, like teenagers stuck in a boat, of Life of Pi story-telling, pointing fingers, measuring water lines, making crude jokes, nursing headaches, and so much whee-snaw (you had to be there) to a close as he limp-tugged us back to the lake house like soldiers crawling home from war.
There was spaghetti waiting.
And I see the other moms, heating up the pasta and the sauces, relieved to see you in one piece, fulfilled to still be necessary to you, if only in the form of pasta-and-sauce heaters. We created you, and you in turn created this need in us to be there for you. To feed you, to check you for cuts and concussions, make sure you’re hydrated, to bask in the simple miracle that you made it back to the table for one more meal under our common roof.
I see you ELATED, burgeoning, bursting at the edges. Ecstatic effusive confused. As Forrest would say, happy-nervous, “shit-your-pants-excited”, which is funny because that is how you came into this world. Literally shitting-your-pants-excited just to have been born. And we even thought your shit smelled good, kind of fruity and sweet, like prune cake and strawberry HubbaBubba. Call us crazy, but we sorta miss that smell.
In the next few months, you will make us crazier than, or at least as cray-cray, as you did at two, when you tested out the word NO until you went down fighting, asleep in your race car bed under the clouds Dad painted on the ceiling; at 10, when you refused to put your socks on for Saturday morning soccer practice; at 16 when we caught you rolling joints in your bedroom. And all those moments in between when you forgot your lunch, your obligations, your decency. When you tested our limits way beyond what we thought were their breaking points. You stretched us and in the process, stretched yourselves, and not that we ever truly finish the process of growing but if we could just put a pin in this moment, the snapshot shows us what all that stretching has lengthened into: the fluid, flexible people before us. Incredible, engaged, exceedingly talented, occasionally self-righteous, and sometimes excessively dramatic (Hey, you gotta shake that money-maker). You’re hilarious and obnoxious, ribald and roisterous, risk-taking, quick-thinking, jule-vaping, hash-tagging and Broadway-battling. You are wanna-be-tattooed, endearingly entitled and a little bit rude. You’re sex-obsessed, well-dressed, self-possessed, tightly wound, college-bound and breaking new ground
And living out loud.
You make us just a little bit proud.
And you make each other proud. It is a rare gift in life to be surrounded by a group of friends who GOT each other. Y’all get each other and you GOT each other. You lift each other up and complement—with an e— each other. And when you’re not taking the mickey out of one another, you compliment each other with-an-i as well. Your duets are in harmony no matter how you pair them. And whether you already know it or not, you are living in a watershed moment where LOVE, the laid-bare, no-matter-how-it’s-paired, naked form of it has never been more visible. Your generation has exposed this humanistic love, walking into this era like it was an abandoned house, throwing open the drapes of love and ripping the dust-covers off the furniture and climbing all over Love like a kindergartner jacked up on juice boxes and fruit roll-ups on a jungle gym at recess. You lick the bars of Love just to taste the cold key metal on your tongues. You bromance love or BFF love. You love your classmates like Jonah and Blake and little sisters like Maya. You love, or at least don’t harsh too hard on each other’s music. And you pour out love for lives lost to drugs and suicide, and in Parkland, a tragedy that unfolded in real-time in the living rooms of your splayed-open hearts. I see you channeling that into an anxious but productive anger that makes you demand, “Are you even listening to us?” You are brave and you are powerful and we watch you in awe even as we send you out into a world of conditions that at any given point could make you a target.
This love is what refuses to make targets of anyone else. You will intermarry more, travel more, and break down more walls than any generation before you. This love began on those literal playgrounds of your childhoods and was fostered during these last two intense years. You took it to competitions. You used it to welcome new friends into a well-knit group. And you will carry it with you like a Life Straw out into the lake waters of your tomorrows, sucking in god-knows-what, filtering out the toxins, and swallowing just the good stuff.
You also may not realize what gifts you have in your pockets. —Go ahead with the Is that a whatever in your pocket joke. It’s your phones, dumbasses. — Use them to keep the connections you have forged, but not to cut yourselves off from the experiences that await you. All weekend long, I was proud to see you off your phones and into your moments. When you go away in August, practice leaving your phones in your dorm rooms once in a while on purpose and go talk to eye-to-eye, face-to-face, skin-to-skin people. Explore your cities and towns. Spend time in the LIBRARY immersed in something so esoteric and intellectually stimulating that you lose track of time and of the outside world. And when you re-enter it, lose yourselves in it again. Buy cheap pizza at that gross place on the corner and buy a slice for the hungry guy outside. Strike up a conversation with him or at least shake his hand. He’s a person too. You share this planet with all these glorious fuckers, so let them know you know how lucky you are. Go dancing. Get drunk. Stay sober. Roll someone else’s tongue around in your mouth. —I was talking about learning a foreign language, you horn-doggers. Take in a game or a concert or a tarot-reading/ seance/ Reiki t’ai chi bonfire flea market outside of your comfort zone.
And take comfort in knowing that these friends, even when you’re mourning for them, for afternoons on the lake or cruising up and down Research Forest Drive or the back booth at Chili’s after every performance — they are never lost to you.
Your worlds-to-discover are as vast as Pi’s ocean and as small as his life raft. Explore them both. Make friends with Richard Parker, accepting that someday he might find his island and run off without saying good-bye. You will wave and let him go, knowing that the seasons you drifted together in the waters called High School, though at times may have been the saltiest, loneliest, most isolated, most terrifying periods of your life, were also a breeding ground for courage and self-sufficiency, for honing your skills of celestial navigation, for floating amid the glow of bioluminescent creatures who combine chemicals within their bodies to make their own magic and shine from within.
It is doubtful however, that your Richard Parkers will leave your boat at all. Like I said, they are connected to you by fate and by this powerful tool, your phone. Which is also useful for another lifeline. . .
We, your mothers, are happy-nervous and ape-shit anxious and so proud of you we could shout it from the mountaintop at a volume that could rival Marianne’s aria. No matter what happens, we will always be that proud. You hung our stars. We thought your shit smelled good, for fuck’s sake.
But we worry. Without you at our dinner tables every night, there are a few less stars in our skies overhead. Share with us what you’re going through. Chances are, we’ve gone through it too. We want to know. And short of getting in our cars and driving to your colleges to make you lasagna and those toffee crunch cookies that you love, we’ll do anything for you. We know we can’t do that just as well as we know you don’t honestly want us to. But there may be days when you really wish we could, and it’s hard to say for whom those days will suck harder. Even if it means batting away a few tears, please just call us anyway.
Call us at least five times a day. Kidding not kidding.
Go forth and be kind in the world. Build it up and never break it down. Be grateful. Glow. Love nakedly, but use a condom. Know when to hold on to the handles and when to fly up over the wake and splash-land down. Look for the tigers who won’t eat you and the Derek’s who will tow you safely home. We will be here stirring the spaghetti sauce.