“This is gonna be the worst day of my life,” said the Jingle, as he passed me on his way to the bathroom. I figured it was his teenage, under-developed frontal lobe talking again, so I chose to ignore both of them.
Failing to get a reaction from me, he stomped out, grouchy. Oliver the cat sat on the bathroom counter and narrowed his golden eyes.
"What a thoroughly unpleasant man-child," he said to me. "If I were 6 feet tall, I would eat him; instead I will just pee on his bed as soon as you leave." He yawned, stretched and jumped down.
I looked at the tired, middle-aged woman in the mirror. "Botox!" I said, pointing at her. As soon as he turns 18, we are gonna go see the doc and wipe all that teenage drama off your face!”
She looked back at me and smiled weakly. I think she knew that it would take more than Botox to wipe years of worry off my face. It would take a sand belt, a sharp knife and probably a stick of dynamite.
A Facebook faux paux
We began our journey down to Newport Beach in the car, a picnic basket stocked with chicken, potato salad, black-cherry Shastas for the kids and mai tais for the adults.
We were nearly there when Jingle piped in. “Hey, Mom, tell Grandma B she needs to accept my friend request on Facebook.” I immediately texted Grandma B, thinking to myself, ”Wow, he is finally opening up to family … online … this is a good sign!”
Arriving in the harbor, we took our basket of goodies and boarded an adorable powder-blue Duffy with leather interior, a glass-mirrored bar and cozy pillows. The sun was shining as I pulled off my straw cowboy hat, ran my fingers through my recently cropped, now blonde locks and leaned back, enjoying the view and the sound of my children talking excitedly between each other—not arguing, for a change. It was perfect.
“OMG! OMG!" Jingle suddenly said, sitting up right in a panic, his face turning bright red.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him, noticing he was checking something on his cell phone.
“I just wanna jump overboard and sink straight to the bottom," he replied, with great melodrama, putting his head in his hands and closing his eyes in agony. “Grandma B just accepted my friend request and made a comment.”
His feet curled up, and he twisted his hands nervously.
My immediate thought was that he had said something inappropriate on Facebook and Grandma B called him on it.
“What did you say on Facebook?” I asked him, popping a slice of salami in my mouth.
Without answering me, he moved quickly across the boat to his father and showed him the Facebook post. Mr. Stark laughed and said nothing.
“What’s going on?” I asked again. Both of them said nothing and chose to leave me hanging.
“Do you need me to text Grandma B? Do some damage control?” I asked Jingle.
NO!” they both cried out.
“I am sooooo deleting this entire post.” Jingle declared, his fingers working furiously on the cell phone keypad.
The Big Reveal
Two hours later, nearing our dock where we needed to drop the boat off, we were entertained by a present-day George Jetson, using the power of water forced through a tube at high speed. He was able to float 10 feet up and across the water, leaving plumes of white water in his wake.
“That is going to the top of my bucket list!” I told the kids as we watched him fly across the blue water, all of us mesmerized.
We docked our boat and exited to the landing, sitting down at a large table where we were joined by several other couples also reluctant to leave.
Suddenly Mr. Stark and Jingle looked at each other.
“OK, this has been going on long enough!” Will someone please tell me what is going on?” I yelled.
The other couples, sensing some excitement, stopped chatting and listened.
"Excuse me,” Mr. Stark asked the dock attendant as he passed by. “Can you find me a large boat paddle so I can hit my son over the head with it before I pass it to his mother?"
The dock attendant laughed. I crossed my hands in front of my chest and looked hard at Mr. Stark.
“I found something very interesting this morning when I went to wake up the Jingle for your birthday boat ride,” Mr. Stark finally said, looking very impressed with himself. "Then Jingle posted it on Facebook, then Grandma B saw it because Jingle put it on Facebook," he went on to explain.
“You wanna show her what ya got, Jingle?” he said, turning to the Jingle with a smile.
Within a moment, it became quite clear what had happened. My face turned white and I stood up in anger, waving my finger. “A tattoo. Don't even tell me you got a tattoo!” You were right this morning when you said this is gonna be the worst day of your life, 'cause it might just be the last day of your life!!!", I hollared, furious.
Suddenly he lifted up his shirt.
There, on the right side of his chest, written in elegant black letters was a single word: Family
“Oh, Jingle!” I cried as I hugged him, tears rolling down my face.
I was caught within a pyramid of weird emotions: The unconditional love that only a mother has for her child, no matter what happens; pride that the word "family" should be the tattoo he wanted and that maybe he didn’t hate me after all; and sadness that the body I spent nine months on, within my own body, and another 17 years of worry over, was now forever marked.
The other women on the dock all rushed forward to comfort me.
“I don’t even know you, but I am a mom, too, and I think you need a hug!” a tall brunette with dark sunglasses said as she wiped her own tears away.
“At least it doesn’t say, 'I hate Mom,' quipped her husband with a smile as he shook hands with Mr. Stark. Everyone laughed.
"Happy birthday, Mom!” the Jingle said, hugging me again. “I love you forever.”