“Mom, Where Did You Come From?”
My son asks me about my childhood quite frequently. He is about to turn 15 and for whatever reason, he has suddenly taken an interest in who I was when I was “his age”. What do I tell him? I give him bits and pieces, leaving out the shenanigans, of course. Our childhoods are so, so different that I don’t know where to begin with him. What do I say? “Well son, when I was your age, we didn’t actually go to the football games…”
The truth is, my friends would pick me up, I would jump in the back of an old blue 4×4, and we would head downtown to the old Slave Markets, sit on tables and listen to The Grateful Dead. We would play laser tag with toy guns on the rooftops of buildings Downtown. We would sit in coffee shops and listen to Spoken Word or acoustic jam sessions, sometimes with a slightly “altered mentality”. We would run through back alleys and make friends with vagabonds. We would sneak into hotels and steal coffee and tea biscuits. I was surrounded by artists, music, and free-thinkers. I spent many a night at 14 discovering colors and beats and movement at Warehouse Rave parties while my mother thought I was at church lock-ins and such. I grew up thinking the smell of horse urine on the cobblestone streets was “normal”. I grew up wandering cemeteries that were 100’s of years old, sitting beneath the Oaks and sketching and dreaming. The humidity and the night’s summer air was a shawl on my shoulders. I could smell history and feel the romance in the shadows of wrought iron gates on the sidewalks. You see son, I was allowed to be whoever I wanted to be. I pretty much did whatever I wanted. My parents didn’t exactly “allow” me, so to speak.
Of course, I don’t tell him any of this. I nod and tell him partial truths.
“Well, I’ve walked cobblestone streets and sat beneath the largest Angel Oak you’ve ever seen, son. The smell of pluff mud and azaleas makes my soul smile. I’ve frequented many coffeehouses, not Starbucks, son, but real coffeehouses. When you walked the streets during the day, there were horse-drawn buggies and women weaving baskets and people selling handmade oil scents and soaps. And when you walked those old streets at night, the air was thick and sweet, the shadows danced to the sounds of didgeridoos and you could feel the whispers of old ghosts wisp across the nape of your neck. There was always a festival in one of the Squares, and dining on Aloo Paranthas or discovering a tiny French restaurant tucked away in an alley was always a weekend treat. Life was just different for me at your age. We didn’t hang out in Winn Dixie parking lots. We didn’t go to a movie on Friday night. We explored. We created. I was just like you are, I just grew up a little differently.”
I don’t tell him that part of me doesn’t want him to grow up the way I did. With all the fun and discovery came many dark, dark things that I won’t go into at this point. Let’s just say with enlightenment also came a sense of regret and later shame, and while I seemed to make it out okay, many of my fellow adventurers did not. I still carry those memories with me to this day, and I am grateful for them regardless.
He tells me, “Why would a 15 year old want to just go sit and drink coffee, Mom? That’s stupid.” “We weren’t there necessarily for the coffee,” I think to myself. Of course, to him, my century-old rows of houses are nothing to the huge cookie-cutter Suburban dream he lives today. My acoustic guitar and bongos hold no worth to his iPhone and DeMarini Baseball bats.
And I’ll keep it that way, for now, so as to preserve his sense of naivety and to ensure that he spends his time on the straight and narrow rather than the Swirly Doodles I traveled on my way to adulthood. I want him to grow and to experience the world like I did, I do. I just want him to wait until the path is a little smoother rather than trip over the Cobblestone like I did.
Posted on July 7, 2013, in Growing Up, Nonfiction Parenting, Parenting and tagged 1800, acoustic guitar, advice, alternative parenting, art, artistic, bongos, cemeteries, Charleston, coffeehouses, DPchallenge, festivals, growing up, life, live oaks, living, lowcountry, memories, moms, mothering, music, parenting, son, teenagers, teens, tradition. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.