Tanner and I were flying down south for a musical theater audition at SDSU. I saw the sojourn as the perfect mother-son bonding opportunity. After all, I had to milk every moment before he left for college.
“Don’t mess up, Kimmy,” Jimmy said before we left. “I need you on your A-game.”
We arrived to unseasonably warm mid-February weather. Everyone was in a glorious mood. Everyone except Tanner. Buds jammed in his ears, eyes glued to his phone, he totally ignored me.
On the morning of the BIG DAY, I ran through the La Jolla Cove where we celebrated our boy’s first birthday with a cookout and cupcakes 18 years ago.
How quickly the years passed. Anticipating life without Tanner belting show tunes and dirtying every pan with his muscle man meals made me feel blue.
Tanner’s audition wasn’t until four so after my run I suggested lunch at Puesta taqueria in downtown La Jolla.
After we sat down, I pointed across the street. “There’s my favorite restaurant, Herringbone.”
“Hrrmmp,” he said. “More like Pricey-bone.”
“This menu sure looks good!” I said.
“Uh-oh,” Tanner said. “‘Not guaranteed to be cooked in a gluten free environment’—NOT good.’”
“If we alert the waitress, I’m sure she’ll be on it.”
“Achoooooo!” Tanner sneezed. “Oh no, I think I”m catching a cold!
I chalked Tanner’s grumpy mood up to pre-audition nerves and tried to keep the mood sunny.
Speaking of sunny, Windansea Beach was a few blocks away. I proposed a quick post-lunch swim to help dry his stuffy nose.
I bodysurfed in the warm water. Tanner sat on the beach checking his watch.
“We should go,” he yelled.
“Five more minutes!” I pleaded.
We returned to the hotel with plenty of time. Blissed out from the beach, I leisurely ironed his chino’s while he lingered in the shower. By the time we climbed in the car, it was 3:15. I felt a twinge of panic.
It’ll be tight but we’ll make it, I thought…until we pulled out of the hotel driveway. It took fifteen tortuous minutes just to crawl one mile onto the freeway ramp. SD traffic had become as brutal as LA’s.
And who could blame him?
How could I be so irresponsible? How could I misjudge rush hour traffic? Why couldn’t the beach have waited until after his audition? Jimmy’s pep talk echoed in my ears, Don’t mess up, A-game Kimmy.
As we merged onto the 52, I prayed for empty lanes only to find a river of red brake lights. It was now 3:40. And SDSU was still fifteen miles away.
“We’re NOT gonna make it,” Tanner said. “If I’m late, I WILL NOT go to my audition.”
Inside I was freaking out. Tanner’s slot was 4:00 to 4:10—exactly enough time to perform two monologues and 32 bars of “I Chose Right” from Baby. There were no other audition days. No other weekends. This was Tanner’s big chance.
Then an idea hit. “Pull up the audition email on your phone,” I said. “We can call the theatre department.”
“It’ll never work!” he said.
“We have to try!”
He dialed the number on speaker.
1st ring—we are so screwed.
2nd ring—NO way anyone is going to answer the Friday before President’s Day weekend.
3rd ring—Tanner is never going to forgive me.
Fourth ring—Click. “Hello?”
Then some guy, no, some Saint named Peter answered. St. Peter told Tanner, “No problem, we’ll squeeze you in when you get here.”
We screeched in at 4:25 and Tanner bolted for the Don Powell Theater.
He found me after his audition, ecstatic. “They were scribbling notes during my song. I think they liked me.”
Relief washed over me like the aqua waves at Windansea.
In the car, we cranked Hall and Oates “You Make My Dreams Come True” and sang at the top of our lungs. We were BONDING. Finally!
The following morning, Valentine’s Day, I woke yet again to grumpy Tanner.
I brunched alone at Caroline’s Cafe; he stayed in bed checking his Twitter.
Sitting on the deck overlooking La Jolla Shores, I noticed a cute towhead nearby smothering his mother in syrupy pancake kisses. Melancholy crept back in. I envied her. Time with her adoring child stretched before her endlessly like the white sand below while mine was vanishing.
I was excited for Tanner to begin this new chapter, but part of me wished he could stay.
I returned to the hotel and we packed. Tanner surprised me when he suggested a quick boogie boarding session at the Shores.
We hustled to the beach and rode waves side by side, meeting in the swirl of white water. I looked over at Tanner, his lips curled into an excited O, audition behind him, not a care in the world. My heart swelled.
Twenty minutes later he called, “We better get going. We don’t want to miss our flight.”
I did not beg for one more wave.
Okay, maybe just one.
But as I glided across that last wave, a sheet of celadon glass, I thought maybe instead of regarding our time with our children as finite, we should think of those bonds as constantly shifting, yet always there. Like the sand and sea.
Last weekend we took Tanner to SD for good, of course narrowly avoiding missing our 8 a.m. flight.
“I’m going to miss you guys,” he said, “but I’m gonna love never being late for anything again.”