How I Gave My Mother an Ulcer (And Why I’m Only Partially Sorry)

So, the other day, I got in trouble. With my mother. Honestly, if I wasn’t at the ripe old age of thirty-seven I think she might have grounded me.

You see, I wrote this post here, posted it, and then – as I typically do – forgot all about it.

Later that day, the phone rang. It was mom.

“Well,” she said, “I’ve been on the verge of throwing up all day,” she said.

“Really?” I said.

“And I’ve been studiously avoiding commenting on your blog.”

She only rarely comments on my blog, and I still really had no idea what she was talking about.

“If I,” she said, “could reach through the computer screen and snatch you off that precipice and drag you to safety, I would do that.”

“Oh,” I said, the light slowly dawning (I think I’ve mentioned before here that I’m really not all that bright). “You’re talking about the bridge incident. I never told you about that?”



Mom: (in a whispery hiss of a voice) “No. No you never did.”

Which, in retrospect, was a smart choice.

Here’s the thing: Youth is dangerous. Teen youth. Kid youth. Young adult youth. Youth in general. It’s crazy and confusing and utterly wild. It is wildness defined. And it’s amazing we come out alive. We certainly don’t emerge without scars – both visible and invisible.

Someone remarked not too long ago at the sheer number of scars that I have on my legs. And I do. And I don’t cover them up. There’s the marks from the sharp rocks in a fast river when a canoe flipped and the scars from surgeries and the scars from the hot metal of motorcycles and the scars from the teeth of a dog and the scar from road burn and the scars from where I had gravel imbedded in my skin. My scars are magnificent.

I smiled.

“My legs tell stories,” I said. And they do.

But, really, I think that’s one of the things that draws writers who write young adult novels and middle grade novels and early adult novels to do what they do. We remember the dynamism of youth. The bad choices. The mistakes. The headiness. The passion. The despair. When we are young we are juiced-up, enraptured with the world and with one another and act as though everything is possible, because it is.

And we are stupid.

Astonishingly stupid.

Which is how I ended up on that sultry, humid night with a group of friends (two of the boys I had kissed earlier that week), with wine and cigarettes and wild abandon. We were in love with our bodies, in love with the air, in love with each other and in love with the inky water slithering below us.

And so we jumped.

And there was only speed and stars and wind and night and voices and the splash below so sudden, it took a while to remember how to breathe.

But we did breathe.

And we did live.

And we almost died laughing.

It is the task of the young to make the adults in our lives worry. And this never goes away, even after we domesticate, grow roots, and raise the people who will one day give us heart attacks. I have no doubt that as I have sown, so shall I reap. And holy hell, do I ever have some reaping in store for me, I’ll tell you what. And I’m bracing for the stomach acid that will no doubt flow once my children are old enough to make the impulsive, heady, joyful and astonishingly stupid choices of their own.

Mom. I’m really sorry. (Mostly.)

And you deserve to say “I told you so.” At least four hundred times.

To illustrate my theory on Youth, let me point you to the speech on the roof made by the inimitable Nathan from one of my most favoritest Brit television shows, “Misfits”. Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “How I Gave My Mother an Ulcer (And Why I’m Only Partially Sorry)

  1. Speaking as a mother who puzzles over the give-and-take of acid stomach between mother and daughter, (and would rather not give it), all mother’s are evil. Ah, if we could only not blame ourselves for our daughter’s scars, but escape seems impossible, she said, reaching for chocolate. (Oh, I just noticed the posting date. Now, there’s more irony there than can be imagined).

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