After taking care of my nephews all day, I intended to spend last Thursday night doing two things: finishing an article on worldbuilding and revising three more chapters of Breath of Stone.
Sometimes life goes sideways. And sometimes the unexpected sideways is the best damn thing you couldn’t have planned.
My son Dev had bought tickets for himself, his friend, and his friend’s fiancé to a night with Kevin Smith in Boulder, Colorado. He has been looking forward to this so much. But when I got home from nephew-care, Dev had just heard from his friend: the fiancé was throwing-up-sick so they wouldn’t be going.
I looked at the clock—it was just barely past six o’clock—and figured I could get him there on time. So I threw on clothes more acceptable than yoga pants and sweatshirt, made sure the pups were fed and cared for, and got us on the road before 6:15pm.
Now… understand I had but the most basic knowledge of Kevin Smith when I pulled out of the driveway that night. Yeah, I knew there was a comic book show (an unavoidable tidbit if one watches The Walking Dead), and I’d seen a couple films. But I wasn’t going into this as a fan. I was instead going with my son because he’d already tried and failed to get another buddy to go on such short notice (we’re still new to Colorado, so who we know is a rather small list), and I didn’t want him to just go alone.
I mean, I figured the night wouldn’t completely suck—if nothing else, my adult son and I would have some rare time together—but my expectations weren’t much higher than that.
So we drove to Boulder through late rush hour traffic, and found the theater with an amazing twenty minutes to spare before show time. Fearing the parking situation, I dropped Dev off in front of the theater so he’d at least be able to get in line.
I drove about thirty feet past the theater when I saw back-up lights to my left. Some person pulled out of the parking space right there. I swooped in. After checking and re-checking to make sure I hadn’t pulled in to a designated handicap spot, a poorly marked pedestrian path, or the only $100-per-hour parking space in Boulder, I locked the car and met my son in line. Considering the crowd and the really cold temps, the luck was unbelievable. “That’s the way our whole night has gone,” Dev told me, grinning.
He’s such a damned optimist on the inside. When some teens might have been pretty pissed a night out with a couple buddies had become an evening with his dorky mother, he saw the luck in the fact he got to be there for the show at all.
We picked up drinks—Dev a soda, me the weakest double Jack and Ginger I’ve ever had (I mean, even the Jack coming out of the bottle looked awfully pale)—found our seats, and settled in.
Can I just pause for a moment and tell you the whole legal pot thing is still totally bizarre to me? One of the show’s sponsors was there giving away rolling papers. “No thanks,” my son says without the least bit of awkwardness, while I’m trying to say the same while on the inside I’m having an irrational conversation with myself. Whenever someone made an open comment about pot, I felt that little “Act normal, it’s the cops!” flinch coming on. And I couldn’t help but realize how little it took to toss my primal reactions back twenty-five-plus years, when I last took a toke.
Then I realized my son, standing beside me, is the same age I was then.
*insert dramatic shudder because nostalgic tears would be a tad over the top*
For the next two hours or so, Dev and I laughed and listened and nodded and enjoyed the non-stop Q&A that resulted in connected stories, bits of advice, and optimistic encouragements. I loved Kevin’s stories of his wife and daughter, his retellings of internal conversations, and his unflinching references to failure. And I loved the fact he made certain the entire audience heard the names of podcasts done by those who asked him questions. That sort of thing matters, damn it.
*insert musing on how whether one invests time promoting the very successful or the up-and-coming struggling artist indicates one’s artistic confidence*
Now, Dev felt a different level of connection when Kevin revealed he’d lost his own father. (Azyoo nobob, Dev’s father passed away when he was fourteen.) After watching and talking with Dev over the last four years, I know his father’s death influences how he makes choices and weighs priorities, and how he experiences success and failure. He will of course give greater credence to what those with a similar experience might say. That Kevin’s message was encouraging, hopeful, and daring put a measure of steel in Dev’s determination.
For the entire ride home, we talked about creative projects, taking the next step, what we let hold us back, and what we’re doing to do moving forward. (Almost the whole ride. We did take a few minutes to find something to eat since we’d had nothing for twelve hours, and a few moments more to stuff cheap burgers in our mouths before we even made it back to the highway.)
I’ve mentioned before how the last few years have hammered me down on multiple professional fronts. My goal now is to keep the past from layering chips on my shoulders as I move forward, and to do that forward-moving regardless of others. I’ve been struggling to set aside the realization that some folks I know in the trade publishing biz are utterly and determinately disinterested in anything outside that small circle… even when those outside the circle support and promote them. I need to stop caring about that, and I want to do so while acknowledging I still care about them and their art. Tit-for-tat never set well with my ethics anyway.
Dev has a whole long list of goals—ambitious and diverse goals I want him go for with everything he’s got. I won’t go into those because they are not mine to share.
But I will take a moment to pat my own back on a parental goal achieved. Y’see, when I was a teenager, high school was the road to college, and college was the path to a career, and career was a single-track life choice. One couldn’t be a CPA and an artist, a business owner and an actor, an attorney and a pastry chef. It was the thought you couldn’t be any good at anything unless you did it to the exclusion of everything else (including one’s relationships, truly).
I absolutely refused to raise my son that way.
On our drive home, the way he discussed his goals and aspirations let me know he wants a life of balance—one that incorporates the income he wants with the art he wants to create with the people with whom he wants to share his life. I didn’t give him the bullshit line I heard so often—You want a mundane career to fall back on—and instead told him all the cool stuff that might come his way if he went with the dream. And the cool stuff wasn’t about making millions of dollars and basking in the adoration of fans. It was about who he might meet, the freedom he might find, and the satisfaction of knowing he took risks because he was determined to push for success.
I pretended not to sniffle.
My darlings, it would have been deadly easy to give my son sympathy that night, to commiserate with the bummer-ness of his friends missing the show, or send him out to sit through the show alone, or try to make him feel better about staying home instead with a better-luck-next-time. It would have been easy to say I was too tired, too busy, too whatever to jump in the car for what ended up being a six-hour journey.
But it isn’t often a 45-year-old mom gets to spend an inspirational evening with her 19-year-old son. And you just never know when that opportunity will come up again.
I wouldn’t give up that night for anything. For anything.
(Edited because I can’t fucking proofread my own crap.)