A mother’s laments: one too many mementoes from your school . . .

Maybe “engage” a little less!

PHOTO: freestocks / Unsplash

By: Kelly Chia, Staff Writer

Ah, it’s already May. The cherry blossoms have given way to verdant greens, the weather is nice enough that you might just want a nice cardigan you’ll regret wearing by 2 p.m., your stunning hydrangeas might just bloom tall enough to be peed on by your neighbourhood’s ravenous Shih Tzus — and Mother’s Day is approaching.

So imagine my pleasant little surprise when a package arrives addressed from the Son of Few Understandings (SFU). I try not to be too harsh on my son. This was his fourth semester, the pandemic had taken his social life into Zoom calls and Discord meetings, and he was adjusting to a new environment living away from home for the first time. But that didn’t stifle the loud groan when I saw that signature red sticker on the cardboard box.

That balmy May breeze had turned into a callous wind as I contemplated each and every gift he had left me from his school. The first gift, a humble scarf, had been cute enough! I thought about wearing it once in a while, but the gray and red colour scheme always clashed. Eventually, it found a home in the back of my closet. But then the sweaters came . . . and the pens, the mugs, the notebooks . . . the mementoes to the restless spirits in SFU construction scaffolding. It got less cute, and more obsessive. I mean, I like to keep an amicable distant relationship with my school, personally. Well, as amicable as it can be; they keep calling me as if I didn’t already thrust thousands of dollars into those grubby moneycats for my BFA . . .

As I unpacked the box, I groaned at the sight of another gray and red shirt and a mug. The shirt irked me. In the middle of the text “Simon Fraser University,” the word “Mom” jutted out, too forcefully for my liking. SFU wasn’t even my alma mater! The mug seemed to jeer at me as it quipped, “engaging the world!”

I had to laugh then! Engaging the world . . . my son hadn’t even engaged in a good conversation with his poor mother about something that wasn’t, “exam season,” or “Moooom, I’m busy,” or, “I think the RCB hall will swallow me whole one day!”.

I read what seemed to be a hastily scribbled thank you card. The first few words were neat, but as the letter progressed, it got messier. The ink bled through the card, like he had forced his hand down.

“Mom, thank you for everything. I Hope you Engage in your cup of coffee as much as I am engaging people in a personaLity built around complaining about Papers!”

“What a weird way to ask for exam help,” I shrugged, chuckling as I assembled the goodies my son had gotten. Though he had only been at SFU for two years, they still formed a small gondola-less mountain. “Liiiiiiinda,” a sing-song voice seemed to rise from the accursed objects.

What. I must have been dreaming. Did I have too much coffee? Missed my son too much? Surely it couldn’t be that eldritch recipe book I had been consulting for Mother’s Day brunch . . .

I crept back as the pile of gifts seemed to edge closer and closer, not sure what I was seeing.

“Come join us!” the complementary ball-point pen seemed to say, as it rolled closer to me.

“Yeah! Let us show you the magic of the raccoons, the unending jokes about the Student Union Building!” the sweater piped, already making its way over my head. Before I could even protest, the ‘gifts’ enveloped me.

I smelled the breeze of construction, of a mountaintop campus that promised fog, mystique, and even communities if you solved the ongoing puzzles of how to find your classes through its cement mazes.

And it came to me with vivid clarity why my son had left these gifts for me. He wanted me to understand that for him, and now for me, school spirit was literal. He was compelled to make exam jokes now; to tell me about staring into the library page hoping that the LiveChat advisor would reach in and hand him the right thesis. This was the agreement that he had made as a student.

As the mailman came to drop off yet another package, I caught a glimpse of a bushy banded tail disappearing into the bushes. I rubbed my head. The gifts had indeed left me changed: I already felt a headache coming on from the ten perpetual assignments that were hidden on Canvas pages that I had forgotten about. The three hours of sleep. The words, “lofi 10 hour mix” came into my head like a chant. It all made sense. I smiled simply, knowing that I now completely understood my son.

I thought I saw the raccoon wink at me from behind the bushes. I tried to wink back.

“What an engaging Mother’s day,” I thought dreamily.

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