Why not...

My last of twenty-seven years in the secondary classroom, my baby just now in college, a government and economy looking like something out of Duck Soup, a pituitary tumor, chronic migraines... Hell, why not write a blog?

(My students are now gone. I'm now a civilian and really no longer a "lame duck." I hope the readers of Mama Duck will come to my new blog for some new writing and new directions. My new blog is at: Writing Isle to Isle.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Making Lemonade out of Lemonade

I awoke Sunday morning with the usual migraine. My dear husband coaxed me with the usual cup of coffee he’d made, topped off with soymilk. It’s my first line of defense against the morning migraines I awake with. I had on the Sunday talk shows—Fareed Zakaria attempting to get “experts” to talk cogently about unemployment and Palestine. Why did he think Elliot Abrams (that God damn criminal) would be a cogent voice? The gray weather offered as little hope for sun as the talking heads did for a two-state solution. 

When the phone rang, I thought it would be my husband, already at school, copying materials for the teaching week ahead. But instead, it was my daughter. Her broken voice told me she had hit the bottom of several long coping weeks in her new college setting. “I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. “What? Honey, tell me what’s wrong.” I held my breath. “Last night I knocked lemonade over on my laptop…I’m so sorry.” She cried and cried. By baby was clearly seeing this one act as a final straw on her crippled four-week old collegiate camel. I didn’t want her to see it as a harbinger of what could be. I tried to console her. “It’s just a material possession, honey. It can be replaced. Did you lose a paper or assignment?” No, she answered; those had been saved on the university server. I told her that it was simply a problem to be solved and that I’d call her back after I found the Mac store in her area.

But when I hung up the phone, I knew I was going to drive the typical five-hour drive to help her. She’d have no way to get to a store to get the computer fixed. But more importantly, she needed emotional support.

Her dad got home and I told him what was going on. I was in whirlwind mode by then. I’d left two messages at the Mac store in her city to find out about getting the computer fixed. It would close at 6:00 pm. It was 11:00 am. And I needed to catch a 12:10 ferry. I didn’t know if I could get there in time, and I’d have to get a sub for teaching on Monday. Details, clothes thrown unfolded in a bag, my medications, my computer…”But, honey, how’s your head?” he asked. “You’ve still got a headache, don’t you?” he asked. “I can go,” he offered.

I lied and said that it was better. It wasn’t, but there wasn’t anything that would have stopped me from getting to her.  I’ve stopped and barfed when driving with a migraine before. Some of the more heartless passersby swoosh by and honk or throw a thumbs-up. Maybe they think I’m drunk. Who knows? Compassion seems to have drained from this country like industrial jobs. Maybe compassion is locked in a hot factory in Saipan.

My dear husband got me packed up in his new truck with fresh drinks, a connector for my IPod and checked the oil. He knew better than to try to stop me. He’s lived with me for twenty years now. He’s had too much fun in his youth to get sainthood, and he refers to himself as a recovering Catholic, but living with me all these years should qualify him for a nomination list somewhere.

After getting off the ferry, I plied myself with a Starbucks and two Excedrin Migraine and hit the freeway. I had Dixie Chicks albums set on my IPod. The four of us, Natalie, Emily, Martie, and me burned the fast lane. We burned it for three and a half hours. At first, I cried at their words:

“As you wander through this troubled world
In search of all things beautiful
You can close your eyes when you're miles away
And hear my voice like a serenade”—Lullaby

But as the caffeine started to constrict the blood vessels on the right side of my head, I felt less sick, and I started to harmonize with them.

“I hope, for more love, more joy and laughter
I hope, we'll have more than we'll ever need
I hope, we'll have more happy ever after
I hope, we can all live more fearlessly
And we can lose all the pain and misery
I hope, I hope” –I Hope

Through the songs and the miles, I knew the trip was not just for my daughter. It was also for me. I have missed her, missed seeing how she twists her hair up when she’s getting prepared to do a task. I have missed hearing her commentaries in the evening about school politics. I’ve missed the voice she uses when she lavishes attention on her cat. But mostly, I realized that it has been a long time since she really needed me. After all, she’s a self-assured, bright, intelligent young woman. She’s adept at so many things. She has a large circle of friends, and she has, in the past years, as is appropriate, turned to those friends for emotional support. She has had, what I have always encouraged her to have, a sisterhood.

Accidents happen. Computers get fried by glasses of lemonade. But that one midnight disaster that seemed like one more insurmountable sticky hurdle in a gauntlet she’d been running for weeks, provided us both a lovely connection and “girl night.” We solved the problem, laughed, hugged, and found courage in saying goodbye the next day. It was well worth the cost of a new MacBook Pro.


  1. Interesting to hear the other end of this story! I had arguably the worst day of my young life last week and my mom offered to drive the five hours to come see me. I selfishly agreed and said "yes, please do!" sniffling. Once the tears passed, I realized that I just wanted to see her because I ALWAYS want to see her, and this was just a good excuse to rope her out here. I was going to see her in a couple of days anyway and told her not to make the extra effort and come. :( What a good mama you are, and couldn't think of anything better than Dixie Chicks to listen to on the way.

  2. I think a hormone floods our bodies once our babies are born, and that hormone reemerges anytime you babies are in crisis. It's the mamma bear response. It can't be helped. Hope YOUR mamma bear has now put you back together and things have smoothed out for you.