We are on the porch eating dinner, one night just a few weeks ago, at the front-tip edge of our 21st summer together. The days are warm and nights still cool. Our kind of weather. I think of this weather as our season.
Our son (who drove his truck, your truck, Henry’s truck, to school on this particular day) is telling a story about meeting with the college counselor.
So, I met with the college counselor today. (Great! How did it go?)
Well, I sat down in her office, and she pulled out my records, and she asked what I want to do with my life, what I’m interested in. And I tell her I’m not sure yet, but I like putting things together, like when Dad and I built the truck.
And she says, so tell me about your dad, what does he do?
And I say, he’s a carpenter, he fixes things.
And she says, OK. Where did he go to college?
And I say, he didn’t.
She write some notes, and then she says, OK, do what about your mom, what does she do?
And I say, well, she runs a nonprofit. I can’t remember the name of it but I tell her where it is, and she knows it.
Yeah, yeah, she says, I know that place.
And where did your mom go to college, she asks, and I tell her. And she starts laughing, like hard.
And she says, Wait. Your dad is a high-school graduate who works as a carpenter, and your mom went to Princeton?
And I say, Yep.
Seriously, Mom, our daughter says, I mean, look at you (her brother says, right?). How did this even happen? How did you two even get together?
I have practiced this story. I know it by heart. The words assemble quickly in my head, and I prepare to pour them out, again, like little glasses of lemonade.
We met in July, I will say, high summer in Wyoming. I was visiting my sister to meet her fiancé, your roommate, and we were standing, she and I, on the deck, at the bottom of Snow King, when you came bounding down the hill.
I will detail, again, that you were the best man in my sister’s wedding, the one who stayed a few extra days, cleaned my kitchen and cooked me dinner. You went to Ireland, saw Van Morrison, turned Guinness coasters into postcards that you mailed to me, one by one, in a series, to tell of your adventures.
I’ve told this tale a hundred times (or more), and it always starts this way: We drove from Omaha to Memphis with my dog in your truck, to fix a house and then head back west to the mountains where we belonged.
I will skip all that’s happened in between. They’ve asked how things got started, and I will tell them.
But you surprise me and speak first. I have never heard you answer this question.
Your words are short and elegant, your delivery steady. This is not something you’ve manufactured on the spot. You’ve never been one to do that.
Your answer satisfies them – no, satisfy isn’t the right word. Your answer quenches them, reconciles something that had been unresolved in their minds. This is your truth, about me.
I’ve been found out. Known from the very start, from that same day, on that same hill in Wyoming, looking from the other direction.
Our son says, kindly: That is so you, Mom. (Our daughter agrees, yes, that is SO Mom.)
They gather their dishes, and ours, and start toward the front door. Our daughter says, over her shoulder: And we all know why you picked Dad, because Dad’s just cool (her brother says: Right?).
They go inside. You walk out into the yard, set up the sprinkler. I sit on the porch, digesting this feeling, this unexpected turn of tables. It is an unusual feeling, not entirely comfortable, but not unpleasant, either.
And I wonder if this, actually, is the beginning.