I usually have solutions to most questions my children throw at me. When I don’t know the answers, I’m good about making stuff up in a way that usually satisfies them. Even when I’m clearly bull shitting, it makes them happy that I delve into the deepest part of my chaotic brain and dig up morsels of nonsense that I pass for wisdom. It’s an understanding we share: when you’re in deep crud, Mom will find a way out. Failing that, she’ll say something ridiculous to make us laugh and kiss all the hurt away. Along the way, I nurtured their little delusions as well; when they were little, I let them believe that babies are coughed up and that a giant mole on my tummy was the magic button that delivered a choice of chocolate or strawberry milk to their baby brother. As they got older and began to ask the really tough questions, I sent them to a friend’s farm and deferred all those awkward queries to the friend’s livestock. Even when the kids reached a milestone (Human Growth and Development aka Sex Ed,) in 5th grade I did what most concerned mothers do: located a jug of water in the classroom and came prepared with a brown bag to resuscitate them if they passed out.
Last Friday, I came up short.
My oldest was competing at a State Mock Trial Competition with his team from school. For eight months, they had been preparing for their roles as lawyers, witnesses, and defendant. It had paid off. They won the regional event, took trophies for best attorney, won nominations for best witness and earned a spot at State. It was huge. The team had established a winning streak at Regionals – three years in a row. Last year they had placed higher than any other regional team at State. This year they would be unstoppable. On Friday, the team gathered at the court house in Fort Collins, ready to take a few prisoners. Round One was a breeze. Round Two was harder, but they had managed to do what few teams had accomplished in Mock Trial competition; one of their lawyers had gotten the judge to suppress a key exhibit from being entered into evidence, handicapping the opposing team considerably. They would most likely win this round as well.
Unbeknownst to them, there was more drama playing out in the corridors of the courthouse. The weather forecasters had predicted a severe snow storm the next day and the superintendant of their school district had cancelled all school sponsored activities for Saturday because of liability issues they’d face should a child be injured in an accident en route to the competition.
His team had to forfeit the competition, unless the weather changed for the better. Emerging from the euphoria of a sure win in Round Two, he took this news hard. On our way home, disbelief, anger, and disappointment overwhelmed him. For the first time in a long time, he cried like his heart was about to explode.
For the first time in my life, my brain couldn’t organize a joke or a single one-liner; my go-to in such situations.
We barely slept that night. From 4:00 am, we kept vigil; checking outside for the first sign of the snow storm and consequently a text from his teacher sponsor that they wouldn’t have to forfeit. It was like waiting for the white smoke from the Papal Conclave.
Both were a no-show. The storm changed course, but the district superintendent did not rescind her directive. 8:00 arrived; Round Three. Round Four at Noon and Awards at 4:00 pm. The team sat them out in their homes, seething with hurt.
Over the course of the morning, a dismal two inches of snow fell and disappeared into the still warm ground, leaving no trace of it ever being there.
My son looked at me with growing disbelief; he felt betrayed by the very adults in authority who had sworn to support his team.
“So much was riding on this competition,” he said. “We wanted to graduate with a bang; leave with a tangible legacy for future teams. We’d accomplished so much, Mom, in so short a time. They took that away from us.”
“You think you have it bad?” I said lightly. “You should see my spam folder ….”
I found myself drifting.
“I need to grieve,” he told me. “Just let me grieve.”
I hugged him silently and let go