I got to the airport at 8:10. Two minutes after my mom’s plane was due to land. I fought the other cars at Terminal C, and managed to wrangle a spot close to the exit she was going to come out of. A few minutes passed. The driver in front of me got out of the front seat and ran over to the sidewalk. He picked up his friend’s bulky suitcase and tossed it in the trunk. The two men embraced at the rear of the car. They swung their arms around each other’s large, lean frames, clamped hands around torsos and shoulders, and hugged. Their faces, each dark on the chins with shadows, were so close you could swear they were rubbing cheeks as well. After a few seconds, it was like they realized their break in cultural norms, and each fell back. They awkwardly clapped each other’s shoulders. Exchanged a few words. Then got into the car and drove off.
I watched as the clock ticked another ten minutes away. A policeman in a bright yellow vest came up to my car and knocked on my window. “Miss, you’re going to need to move your car!”
I kept trying to call my mom’s phone. It was still off. Where could she be? Her plane must be delayed. After circling around a few more times, I decided to wait in a nearby fast food restaurant.
Being late is my mom. She is habitually late to everything: work, family gatherings, picking up my sister and I, calling me on the phone, etc. If there is something out there that is possible to be late for, you can be rest assured that my mom has been late to it. I spent much of my childhood waiting for my mom. I used to go to after-school care in elementary school. My friends and I played tag from three to five pm. The most prompt parents started arriving at five pm. Some came a quarter after. The latest ones rushed in with blushes on their faces and murmured to their kids as they tried to sneak out of the center. Like they didn’t want the attendants to realize how late they were. My lonely backpack used to be pushed and shoved by all the kids looking for their own. Until it was the last one left. My lonely pink bag in the middle of the tiled floor.
My mom walked in last. It was usually after six. Annoyed and always feeling forgotten about, I would scoop my bag up off the floor and walk towards her. All the toys were gone by six. The attendants were sweeping the gym ground. My mom looked radiant in her bright colored skirts and lace tops. She certainly knew how to make an entrance. She gave me the brightest greetings. “Steph, dear! How was your day?” I could never stay mad at her.
Back at the fast food restaurant, I opened up my book and started eating and reading. As the first bite of my food approached my mouth, my phone rang. “Steph! Mommy’s here. I finally landed.” I checked the time. It was ten o’clock.
I quickly packed up my things and rushed to the airport. There she was. Was that really my mom? She looked even more beautiful than when she left. And ten years younger. She got into the car and we started talking.
She told me about her whole trip. She got excited about everything. From the most insignificant street food to seeing my 95 year old grandpa, who may not last much longer. My chatterbox of a mom came back with full force. We switched topics.
“Steph, maybe I should have given you more instructions for taking care of the house. It was a lot to ask of you.”
“It’s okay, Mom. You’re back now and I’m glad I won’t have to do it alone.”
“Mommy’s sorry though. My weakness is that I’m not so good at planning. But you know, some of those things just couldn’t be planned for. A lot of problems that came up were due to weather. This winter has been one of the worst.”
“Yeah, definitely. It has been snowing practically every day.”
“Mom, did you know that I have a really bad weakness? I lash out at people when I’m upset?”
“Yes, of course. That is a very bad weakness. You know where that came from?”
“What do you mean?”
“I have that problem. When you were little, I used to get so upset. I was such an emotional person. Everything that made me mad would make me scream like crazy at you….and Nancy and Daddy. No one ever told me. I didn’t learn until just a few years ago. I never realized that it was a bad thing. You picked up some of my bad tendencies.
But you know what, Steph? That’s your problem now. If you decide to continue like that then you are the one hurting people around you.”
“Mom, I read a quote recently that said something about becoming better every day. If you just try to be 1% better than you were yesterday, then you will be 100% better in 100 days. And in one year you will be 365% better.”
“That is a wonderful goal. You can do it. We can do it. I need to get better too.”
We smiled at each other.