Luca tossed his backpack in the car and plopped in the passenger seat when I picked him up from school last friday.
“Where’s your skateboard?” I asked.
“My dad wouldn’t let me bring it.”
“He told me I was ‘arguing too much,’ and it was a punishment.”
“Did you give him something to argue about?”
“He said I went out of the house without asking. It was Halloween! And he started yelling at me. He always does that.”
“Hmm,” I said, trying not to appear pleased as punch to hear that Luca and his dad did not have the “model relationship” that Prince had always told me they had.
As we drove through Friday afternoon traffic, Luca entertained me with his new magic trick (making smoke come out of his mouth) and doing impressions of various classmates.
We were five minutes from home when he said, casually, “Um…I kind of left my clothes at school.”
“Yeah. Can we go back?”
“It’s rush hour traffic! It will take forever to get back! And why are you always carting a duffel bag back and forth? I bought you new clothes so you could have them at our house!”
I grumbled about having a headache, and banged the steering wheel, and I may have cursed once or twice. I told him that as a punishment, he would have to listen to my music, not that Hip-Hop garbage, and I blasted Sheryl Crow. Then I steered the car north, back towards the school. Maybe it was the route I took, but the round trip was much faster than I imagined.
On the way back, Luca started imitating me.
“This is you, Mom…”
He smacked his forehead with his palm and waved his hand in the air dramatically.
“Goddammit! Godammit, Luca! I hate driving in rush hour!”
He pitched his voice up an octave and spoke in a nasally, somewhat mannered twang.
“I sound like that?” I asked, knowing full well that I do. A product of chronic bad sinuses and a snooty east-coast education.
He kept imitating me, slapping the steering wheel, and his forehead, waving his hands in the air.
“I don’t gesture that much! Do I?”
“You totally do!”
He continued his Mom parody the rest of the drive home, cracking me up the entire way. And somewhere in between school and home, I realized that, not only was I enjoying hanging out with the kid who used to hate me, but he was enjoying hanging out with me too.
The years of melt-downs and tirades about how his dad was perfect, and how I was the worst mother ever – those years now seemed like washed-out polaroids from someone else’s life. Now Luca was just your basic obnoxious teenager and I was just a harried single mom.
Who cursed too much.
But if you had been sitting in a car next to us at a stop light, and you glanced over and eyed us through your window, you would have seen a mother and son who appeared completely at ease with each other.
You would never have imagined that Parental Alienation had turned them into strangers not so long ago, and, by a strange tincture of wilderness camp, reaching out, despondence, and letting go, a miracle had transpired, and the mother and son were now back on the road to normal.
“Goddamit! Goddammit, Luca! My head is splitting!” he continued, in his spot-on Pauline falsetto.
I snorted the rest of the way home.