Thursday night, Tommy called to say that he wanted to stay at school instead of coming home. Fine. Then, he asked me to bring him clean clothes. Not fine. I explained that ALL of his pants and underwear were already in his dorm room. Without a moment’s hesitation he asked me to drive up the Kentucky border and do his laundry for him. Doug said no. Friday, as *gas prices soared and stations ran dry, I texted Tommy that he would have to do his own laundry. Tommy sent back, “PLEASE Mom. I need you.” My heart shattered in a million pieces. Doug sat silently while I hysterically explained why I shouldn’t go and what a bad precedent it would set. Then, he handed me $20 and told me to drive safely.
I criticized myself the entire drive there. I sang along with the radio. “Stupid, stupid, stuuuu-pid me.” Sometimes, I didn’t have to make up my own lyrics. “Insane in the membrane. Insane in the brain.” As with every trip before it, the drive on the Interstate was the easy part. Once I hit the two lane highway, the drive became drudgery. Just as I thought I was going to fall asleep, the mountains came into view. Mountains take my breath away. I found myself breathing short, shallow breaths and I drifted the rest of the journey in a hypnotic calm. Perhaps it was this calm that caused me to be so surprised by the sight of my son jumping up and down on the road that leads to his dorm. The child who is twice my size and usually operating in low gear was waving both of his arms and smiling as if he hadn’t seen me in ages. The two weeks felt like forever to me, but I didn’t expect him to be so happy to see me. I parked the car and readied myself for a rib-crushing hug. Tommy opened the car door as he called, “Molly!” He gave the DOG my hug and the two of them raced around the building.
After showing off the dog who he missed more than me, Tommy loaded his laundry in the car and we went out in search of a laundromat. Yes, the dorm has a laundry area. I think the only thing worse than your Mommy driving two hours to do your laundry would be your Mommy doing it in the boys’ dorm. We drove into Kentucky, to the town that distributes the Christmas shoe boxes and care packages to the very neediest people in Appalachia. The dirty, crowded laundromat made me homesick for the luxury of my neighborhood laundromat. I talked, talked, talked laundry as Tommy cheerfully sorted and loaded the machines. He did his own laundry until it was ready to be folded. Then, I thought I would have a seizure if I didn’t jump in and fold the clothes with him. I tried ignoring the way he was folding the clothes. Really, I did. It was just so very wrong. Do you know why Doug never folds laundry at home? Because he does it wrong too. What? Like you don’t have things at your house that you think nobody else can do correctly? Riiiight.
With Tommy’s laundry done, we made a quick stop at WalMall for Tommy’s Sprite and cereal needs. No, he doesn’t mix them together. I drove through the small, square burger restaurant and dropped Tommy back at his dorm. He was calm and content. I was glad I made the foolish trip. I didn’t realize it, but I needed to see Tommy. I drove home listening to the Hurricane news reporters. They bragged about staying in a hotel with flooded first floors. They stood outside and described trees flying through the air. They deserve a diagnosis more than Tommy does. I texted Tommy today and asked him what he does on the weekends. “Be normal. Be happy.”
* Doug told me that the only thing anyone wants to read or talk about right now is gasoline. This is the only time I am going to mention the whole media-induced panic.