Parenting via Email or Swear Not By the Moon

When my sixteen year-old-daughter, Lily, was away for five months in Rome, living with a host madre, padre,and sorella (sister), I – her real mom, was forced to learn parenting via email.  Not an easy task.  It was an exercise in long distance mothering without smothering.  In the beginning our emails went something like this:

Feb. 1st: Rules

Come on, Lily. I know you’ll have no problems going along with their rules – remember Rome is a big city, with way more foreigners in it than Calgary.  (You can’t trust those pesky foreigners).

I loved hearing your impressions of Italy when you called – the shutters, the vespas, the big ancient door key.  Have you had real Italian gelato yet?

My friends are taking me out for lunch and I think the reason is ‘since I must miss you’.  Which of course, I do, but I will be just fine about it.  You are on a great adventure.  Catch up on your sleep.

Love, Mom

And in turn there were days when Lily wrote me emails like this:

Feb. 5  subject: wanted to hide away

Mom, I can feel myself getting terribly sad just thinking of how to write this email.  I’ll try not to elaborate too much – this morning my host mom took me to my school to give them some documents and I had to try to speak Italian with a couple of my new teachers. By the time we got back to this home I was feeling so homesick for my real home because it’s so scary having to pretty much start my life all over like this.

By this afternoon I was wishing that I could just hide away until this starts being fun, but obviously it doesn’t work like that.

Love, Lily

As time passed the tone of the almost daily emails were hard to predict and responses challenged my  creativity:

March 1st subject: so uncomfortable

Mama – tonight my host mother asked me how things are going with Julia, my host sister. Talk about a touchy subject. Though she doesn’t talk too much, I don’t think there’s a huge problem between Julia and I. But she really doesn’t want to go out with me and discover Rome.  We are sweet to each other in passing (how was your day – fine. Good night – sweet dreams. Could you grab me an umbrella – sure.) But honestly she just wants to stay home or hang at her friends.  What am I supposed to do about that?

Your bambina, Lily


March 1st subject: mothers hey?

Lily, I guess I see your point.  But I also know you are mature enough to see that sometimes politeness will need to come before independence, so that you do not seem to snub them by setting off on your own continually.

It’s March! You’ve been a Canadian in Italy for more than a month.  You can figure out the right amount of time to ‘hang’ with Julia.  I know you can.

Xoxo Mom

My favorites were the ones that gave me a giggle and rolled along like this:

April 5:  Subject: Just Clumping Around

Mom, I’m so tired of seeing American girls walking around this city in these beautifully put together outfits when I’m just clumping my way around with my messy hair and dirty shoes and lumpy hoodie, looking for that clean creative look every girl but me has. Then sometimes I just stop dead in my tracks and wonder if it even matters, if I’d be happier just to go home and climb in bed and fill my already cluttered head with more teachings of Nietzsche.

Love, Lily

April 3 subject: what of Italian boys

Why don’t you get Julia to recommend a salon and let them trim your hair so that it is even and blunt – that was one of the best cuts you ever had – you know like in the photo with Santa I keep on my dresser.  Now that you aren’t nine – it would look dramatic on you.

Be brave.  Comb your hair.  Throw your shoulders back and go right up to that boy you like and ask him a question.  Try out your Italian.  See if he answers.

love you, Mom

And I tended to dread the ones near the end that made my palms sweat:

June 13th Subject : I need to vent

Mom, I miss you being my mom sooooooo much. It is so difficult with my host mom sometimes.  Okay, so there was this stupid immersion program get together in the basement of a community hall – the idea was for myself, and the other four girls who were placed in Rome, to talk about our impressions of the program in front of this big group of Roman kids who are about to do immersion programs all over the world.

So we all said something and then they called everyone’s host family’s up and asked the families if they had anything to say. My host mom told everyone- all these Italian kids, all their parents, all the other host families, and all the volunteers, about how it was so hard for her and Julia to get used to having me in the house because Julia had just got back from her immersion in Brazil.  She made it sound like I was homesick and distraught all the time, but with the help of the wonderful volunteers they managed to overcome all that inconvenience I caused. I was just standing there in awe rubbing my forehead as she went on and on and on, making everyone think I was some kind of disaster, using me as a precautionary tale to all the embarking young students. After all that, when we were leaving she told me she thinks I might have I gotten fatter in the time I’ve been here.

Well, I’ll be gone soon. Lily

June 13th subject: oh Lily baby

If ever there were a time to stay calm and try your hardest to get along – this would be it.

You’ll be back here so soon. I have to think that you are with good people there, but five months has been a long time for all of you, especially with the language barrier.  Just a few more weeks and hopefully you can leave with fond memories, and you’ll have succeeded at what so many kids your age would never attempt.

Love you Sweetie Pie, Mom

ps. Honey – who knows what was really going on?

Until finally we arrived at this:

June 24 Subject: stiff upper lip

Dear Lily,

It is one of those Junes where it rains every day – so it’s green and lush like spring, not hot summer.  I’m dusting and vacuuming your room and washing your sheets and there is an air here of anticipation of your return.  Love you so much my Lily.  Love you to the moon.  Mom

June 24 subject: not the moon

No, swear not by the moon!  The inconstant moon that monthly changes with it’s circular orb!

Hung out with friends last night, but tonight I need to be alone. I’m going to go watch the sunset by piazza venezia. I have enough things to do now because I’m doing my last times.

Tonight will be my last night in Rome.  I’m realizing a lot of truths about my time here. I want to be mad at Rome because being mad at it is emotionally easier than being heartbroken to leave it, which in all actuality, I am.

After dinner I’ll walk around Trastevere and go up to GIanicolo to look over the city. It’s better to say goodbye to all of it at once.

Ciao, Mama, Lily

A Place to Cry Outloud

Having our daughter Lily leave, at the age of sixteen, to live with an unknown family in Italy, as part of a foreign language immersion program was one of the biggest nest-departing challenges I’ve faced.  Lily had never minded checking in with me and sharing what was going on.  What I found hard to set boundries around was that when she told me details other kids would never divulge. I had a hard time not opening my mouth and attempting to guide her through her often impulsive, sovereign exploits.

Almost all of her contacts with home during her Italian Immersion program were through email.  What she discovered about her peers in Calgary at that age was that out of sight was almost out of mind.  As a result of that, I’d like to say I was treated to an almost daily email, but they were definitely not always a treat. At just barely sixteen, in such a unfamiliar situation, Lily needed guidance from me and her dad.  My headstrong daughter didn’t always agree.  Parenting loses a lot of its punch when you are a continent away from your child.  When you say, “hang out with your host instead of that stranger you met on the bridge,” and your honest daughter tells you she isn’t going to comply with your rules, it is hard to enforce consequences.

So we bickered via email, I was forced to make great strides in the art of the consoling email, and we gave each other a sense of the life we were separated from, zapping our words across countries and oceans.  Lily did tell me that she found a place to go to cry out loud – her preferred style of crying- and during those months she had reason to go there.  Her older sister, Zoë, and I had a friendly wager about whether or not our sensitive, finicky Lily would last the full five months without sobbing that we had to bring her home.  It was hard to determine the odds.

So On the Level

“Can you believe I’m doing this and I’m only sixteen?, my daughter, Lily, asked as she helped haul her two giant suitcases out of the trunk at the airport.  She didn’t realize how seriously I was trying to understand why the hell I did go along with this proposal from its inception.  Lily was organized, motivated, and I think, fairly sensible.  She was a kid who, simply put – got things done.  But whole books have been written about that other side of her personality.  By definition she is what you call, a sensitive person.  Sensitive to other people’s moods, to the clothes she wears, the food she eats, and especially to the shades of light in a room.  How could I agree to such an undertaking for her, as five months in the home of stranger’s in a foreign culture –  as part of a language immersion program, and why, oh why would she seek that out?  The most reassuring theory is one that I read years ago when I first began to worry about her adaptability.  The theory was that these kids (sensitive kids) are, in fact, the ones that grow up and seek out adventure and unheard of challenges, because they feel they have been challenged and forced to adapt all their lives.   If you didn’t know someone like Lily (and you probably do), you might say she was just fussy.  It is different than that.  It seems to me that while so many people are willing to just go along, people like Lily strive to seek out the best circumstances for themselves, though it can be distressing when she feels her disappointment in failing to do that so deeply.

Lily has learned that ordering chicken quesadillas in a restaurant almost always works out for her – of course, she checks to make sure the onions are green, not white and has explained to me that that the biggest issue is the chicken – “it has to be the kind of chicken that rips in strips, not that weird white chicken that can be cut into neat little cubes.  Anyone would agree that stuff is gross.”   (Really, she had a point with the square chicken bits.)  If the onions are white and the chicken is square she switches to a pepperoni pizza, though she prefers the pepperoni on top of the cheese, please.

This daughter, who went out of her way to seek out well-lit interiors and spoke some French, but very little Italian, and worried too much about who liked her, this daughter had decided to immerse herself in a far away land on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, surrounded by strangers who would speak a foreign tongue and who may or may not like her, and who would likely abide in shadowy, ancient homes.    Still, she spent a season  walking home from school, hugging the last rays of sun on short winter afternoons listening to Italian CD’s.  She had experimented with different pastas, and had agreed to try inner crying, rather than sobbing aloud when circumstances defeated her, and had said she couldn’t wait to see what everyday life in Rome had in store for her.

And hey, it’s true, she has cried in public places, but joy overcomes her too, and she’s been known to merrily skip in public, or burst into song, or make candid observations to others – complementary, but surprising all the same.  “Try not to be a weirdo,” I said as we headed for the airport check-in counter.  “Don’t worry, Mom”, she replied, understanding perfectly what I meant.  “I will be so on the level.”  She made a broad gesture with her hand, slicing straight and even through the air and raised her voice so that other traveler’s eyes were on us.  “So on the level.”

What the Little Brat Was Talking About

The sweet young women handling the interview for the Cultural Immersion organization asked our not-quite sixteen-year-old daughter, Lily, what sort of rules we have in our household.  This woman sitting in our living room with my husband, Lily and I, was here as part of the in-depth study of the prospective applicant, trying to determine if Lily had what it took to live with a host family abroad, immersed in a new language and culture for five months.

Back during the crazy hey-day of Lily’s older sister’s high school musical theatre involvement, when our home first became the place to congregate on a Friday or Saturday night (maybe Thursday and Sunday, too) there had been a time close to the opening night of Joseph and the Amazing Techno-Colored Dream Coat when I had felt the other kids were taking advantage of the largess of my willing to host them.  Better put, our place was turning into party central. One morning I woke up to evidence of underage drinking, along with the sight of two kids, one a girl with an extremely strict mother and the other a guy, who had crashed for the night in the same bed, albeit fully clothed.  Rules for our house were immediately posted on the basement door for the duration of the play.  Of all the rules that currently governed our home ie. inform me before you borrow my car, phone when you’re out super late,  we eat pizza on Friday ….Lily decided to reach back a few years, to one I’d posted on that basement door during the musical and tell the nice lady, “I can’t think of any. ..  Oh, I know a rule we have.  Boys and girls that aren’t related aren’t allowed to sleep together.”

After the crimson left our faces and we stuttered out some explanation for what the little brat was talking about, the interviewer indicated that it was a wrap.  The interview process was a safe guard against families that were really wacked out, she said, and ours was,  of course, fine.

“Hang on,” I wanted to shout, “this kid is too young, fussy, protected, small…” whatever they wanted to hear to stop the whole ridiculous plot.

Prego. They found Lily to be a well-rounded candidate and decided she could go to a little Italian village (little sounding safe).  Lily begged them to let her go to a city, urban girl that she was, and they complied, congratulating her on her being accepted to spend five months in Rome in an Italian language and cultural immersion program.   For five whole months she was to live in one of the loveliest areas, of the loveliest cities in the world – Trastevere –one of the last pockets of medieval Rome, in the home of a family who we had only exchanged a few brief emails with, people referred to by the organization involved as her host mom and dad.  Will and I had been replaced.

The Last Ungainly Swing Dance

When , Lily, the baby of our family, asked if she might take part in a foreign immersion program in grade eleven, my heart stopped beating.  If the youngest of our four kids left at only 16 years old – her Dad and I would be sitting smack in the middle of a shockingly empty nest.  Our friends and family couldn’t shut up about the EMPTY NEST prospect, constantly reminding us that it loomed around the corner.  What was with that?  Were they all watching to see how we would replace the noise, and chaos, comings and goings, organizing and meal planning, and endless discussing that goes on when you have kids at home?  Were they waiting to see how we would manage when too many of our evenings and weekends became unfathomably quiet.  Their curiosity was well founded.  I pondered that uncertain future along with them.

After two decades of kids, kids, kids swarming around us – what the hec would we do?  I might have suggested we take up ballroom dancing – seeing as we are so often hanging out in ballrooms, but I had already played that card.  Apparently, around ten years into a marriage it was what wives got husbands to do.  It felt like such a coup when Will agreed.  His not wanting to do it previously, didn’t translate into him not being able to do it. Will fox trotted and two stepped, and cha cha cha –ed across the gym floor with the rhythm and musical ease he was born with, sometimes with the wiry male instructor, after he’d given up on clumsy, impossible to teach, tone deaf me.  I sympathized with our kids who always had to beg me to let them quit any activity –  music lessons, karate, choir, baseball – whatever.  Will made me stick out that ballroom gig right up to the last ungainly swing dance.

One of Will’s younger work colleagues suggested we get a puppy.  Her parents had fostered puppies when she and her siblings all left home.  She couldn’t know that Will and I are considered by some of our nearest and dearest to be anti-pet.  These friends have been known to get all misty-eyed and accusatory and say, well, I know you hate my dog.  Hate is a strong word, and hey, if I lived in the country I might even acquire a dog to protect me from all the things in the country that make a doggie bark at night.  Most of my reluctance to the city dog, has to do with the poo (and maybe the hair on the couch, slobber on my leg, and kibbles everywhere.)  So no ballroom dancing or puppies to fill the emptiness we might feel sans kids at home.

The year I turned forty-eight, I took lessons in both knitting and outdoor in-line skating.  In-line skating was okay, but I’ve yet to find an in-line skating partner. Knitting passes the time on planes and long drives.  That same year Will bought his dream machine – a midnight blue sports car.  Will confessed that while he was aware that young people did knit, watching me knit made him feel old.  He failed to understand that driving in the low slung car made me feel old, too.  I had to concentrate to gracefully get in and out of it, but also, I tried to explain to my oh-so proud husband, that when we drive down the street, radar detector on, seventies music blasting, I am on to the meaning of that visual double-take pedestrians give us.  It says – was that an old guy, who can finally afford a cool sports car, playing old guy Led Zeplin tunes, and if  it was, I don’t have to be envious because I’m not old yet (glance again) yes, it was, old indeed, oh and look, his wife is knitting. So I suppose we will be diverted from our emptynest-ness by planning two-seater driving trips to places old people go – Waterton Park, Yellowstone Park, and Mount Rushmore, while I knit loose lope-sided teeny sweaters for Zoë’s friend’s new babies.

My approach to Lily’s request to do the immersion program had been completely hands off, not wanting the blame in any way should she call from a far away place to say she was so, so sad and lonely.  Maybe the whole foreign immersion idea would fade away, as teenage ideas often do, before being replaced with the next half-baked scheme.  But Lily was a take charge kinda girl and had the whole application process rolling neatly along on her own, right up to the day we received a phone call to say that the Cultural Immersion people needed to send a staff person to our home to interview Lily, Will, and I as part of the in-depth study of the prospective applicant.   My brain whirled – could this be our out?  Could the wrong answers spare Will and I the possibility of more badly chosen classes or fostered pets and keep little Lily home with us?   Tune in to Thursday’s post to find out….

Assignment Mom


The flight of our eldest three children from the nest left Lily, the baby of our family,  holding together the mother lode of mother.  She’s was a good kid – quite mature for only almost sixteen.  But then she had the luxury of being witness to half a decade of adolescent angst, first loves, soul crushing rejections, minor criminal activity and mood swings in our lively home.  As a result, at sixteen she was a fairly responsible girl.  Her siblings recognized that, and in their absence they handed her a hefty assignment:  take time out from hang’n with your friends, and allow mommy to mommy-you.  It might keep a check on her email-stalking.  (I hadn’t discovered texting yet.)

Lily would call at the end of a chilly school day and ask me for a lift home.  My deal always was that I would help them get to school – I was at home with a car in a household struck with early morning tardiness – but they had to find their way home from classes on their own.  When Lily called for a ride I’d perform the obligatory hemming and hawing, especially if she’d caught me half way across the city, and then I’d easily give in.  Or after she’d headed downtown with friends to hunt for the newest must-have alternative rock CD, or to peruse the vintage clothing shops, she would phone and ask if I was hungry.  Did I want her to grab us a table at that Latin place on Fourth Street we like, or maybe the coffee shop on Thirty-third with the nachos and good lattés, so that she could tell me how her day went?

There was a time back when three or four of them were still living at home, when I would have been too busy racing between after school activities to indulge one of them with a slow meal in a nice setting.  I suppose no one was inviting me to do that back then either, though.  No one was on Assignment Mom.

I’ve been known to direct the rest of the family to be cautious of how we treat the baby of our clan, “Don’t pamper her.  You’re not doing her any favours,” I’d say.  But the tables had turned on me.  One afternoon Lily overheard me joking with a good friend, none of whose kids had flown the coop yet.  “This is what I suspect happened,” I conjured, “when Lily’s siblings made their whirlwind visits home at Thanksgiving, they took their baby sister aside, and to keep the swarms of my emails to the away kids at bay, they’d whispered to her, “Do us a favour, Lily.  Indulge Mom once in a while.  Let her buy you lunch.  Tell her all your troubles.   Pamper her.  Really, it’s good for her – and us.”  In response to my friend’s laughter Lily stuck her head into the kitchen and categorically told me that our mid-week dates were always her idea, and that nobody had to make her hang out with her mom.

And in fact, those dates on Fourth St. or Thirty-third with my dramatic youngest detailing her day, while we sipped virgin Margaritas or steaming lattes, were occasions I wouldn’t have forsaken for all the world.  The truth was that Assignment Mom, voluntary or not, worked for both of us.

A Cacophony of Communication

At eighteen I embarked on a three month backpacking trip around Europe.  I made the brief echo-y phone call to my parents upon my arrival in France, to indicate that I had not disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean.  There were letters and postcard but no other spoken words for those ninety days. Perhaps those were the golden days of parent/child relationships and we’ve fallen back into a cacophony of communication.

Neither of my boys are overly communicative, still I like to think that they are within the normal range of same-age males when it comes to co-operating with their mother’s need for information and dialogue.  At age nineteen when Cole set off on his own trekking trip through parts of the United States, I would have lost less sleep and kept my blond hair blond, rather then tipping to gray, if we could have magically returned to those pre-cell days of my youth.

After a successful but uninspired term at university, Cole had taken another gap, that worrisome break in continuity. The afternoon he left for the U.S of A, his fourteen-year-old sister, Lily, and I were sitting outside in the warm autumn sun, commiserating on how great it seemed to be Cole just then.  He had just finished packing up his friend’s Chevy van.  His traveling companion, George, advised him to empty his suitcase’s contents into the drawers in his organized van, and leave the luggage behind.  The two boys posed while Lilly took photos of their departure, then they shooed her off and turned the van south towards the United States – the land they thought they knew through a thousand movies and every episode of The Simpsons.  They would take the number two south, entering the U.S at the Butes, Montana crossing and wind their way to Salt Lake City, Utah, where Cole wanted to purchase a real tight video camera.

Cole called on Halloween night, music blasting in the background.  He was getting sweet video footage on his new camera of a huge parade, though he confessed that earlier they had slipped down the wrong road in that unfamiliar city and things had looked sketchy.  I warned him to be careful about whose face he stuck that camera in.  And please do nothing sketchy, I didn’t want to hear about sketchy.

Hudson, only seventeen, but away at university, was even less inclined to ever call just to chat, but on that night he called to ask if we would be okay with him dropping two full term classes as he really didn’t like anything about them. Of course, we weren’t okay with it.  Also, he told us, his friend M from Calgary had moved out there unexpectedly, and the two of them were thinking of getting an apartment off campus.

On November first I received another call from Cole.  He told me that unfortunately things had got sketchy. George was not happy, wasn’t sleeping or feeling well, and just wanted to return home.  The boys, friends since forever, were trying to work out a solution. George agreed to drop Cole at whatever mountain destination he wanted to go to.

I was beginning to dread the phone calls.  Hudson called to ask me to send him his resume off our home computer as he was applying for a job, in case he dropped half his courses.  Replace the courses you don’t like with something you’re passionate about learning, I said.  I suspect my kids hate it when I start talking passion.

In the meantime George had dropped Cole off in Mammoth, California.   Cole loved it there – it reminded him of Whistler.  He’d met people from New Zealand and had gone skateboarding with some Americans.  And he said he met a nice Navajo guy who told him he got peyote for free because he was Navajo.  (These phone calls had me wondering just what kind of an out-of-body trip I might sink into with a little peyote myself.) And he met a woman on the street who said maybe he could live with her.  (What?)  He described her as old, and said he thought she was lonely.  I told him that seemed weird, and he should be suspicious.  He quoted me something about riding two horses at one time – you can’t ride Faith and Worry both – you have to ride Aware.  (Fine, I will ride Worry for him.)  He had been offered a job busing at a hotel restaurant and another job at a gym, as well as one at a skate shop, but all of them said he needed a visa.

Now I was making the phone calls.  Twenty-four hours later he had moved in with this older woman. Her house was pretty messy but they were cleaning it – he said it was his idea. (How messy, I asked?  Eccentric scary messy?) He said she had never discussed rent.  And she isn’t a cougar? Or pedophile? I asked.  No, he told me, I needed to chill out. She was just really, really nice.

The next day, jolted by early morning worries I called Cole to tell him he needed to tell me exactly where he was, what was this woman’s name?  He said her name was Annie and she lived near the Harry’s Donut Shop in Mammoth Lakes and drove a delivery truck.  Look Mom, I’m just trying to decide what to do here, he said. If he couldn’t get a job without a visa maybe he would go back to Whistler, in British Columbia, where he had heard there was already snow.

November seventh and Cole called to say he was in a car driven by a new buddy named Mosses (with Cole there is always a new buddy).  Cole had agreed to pay the gas to and from Whistler if Mosses would drive him there.  They were in a car which belonged to the sister of Cole’s Navajo friend.  He (the Navajo guy), not the sister, lent it to them.  They were close to Seattle.

An hour later – Cole called to say they had a problem – the police had stopped them – just to harass them he said, but they believed that when that happened Mosses put his wallet in his lap and then it fell out of the car six hundred miles back where they had stopped for gas.  Not having ID Mosses was now going to drop Cole at the border crossing closest to Vancouver.  Cole wanted his sister Zoë’s number to see if one of her friends in Vancouver could pick him up at the border (he had a lot of gear and his belongings in large plastic bags).

Another hour went by and Cole called to say they had reached the border but things weren’t good.  Mosses drove too far forward in his attempt to drop him off and had entered Canada accidentally.  Cole admitted to low balling the price of the video camera he bought in the States – just for a minute, he emphasized, before he saw they were going to be questioned thoroughly, but then both he and Mosses, the car and their bags, were being searched.  (Is this what I signed up for nineteen years ago?  To help my kid, looking like a bag person, lying (for only a minute, of course) get back into the country?)   Be polite and honest, I said.  Didn’t we tell you to be careful at the damn border?  They’re talking to me again, Mom.  Gotta go, Mom.  Gotta go.

An hour later Cole called again suggesting that maybe he better speak to dad.    They were trying to trip him up – they’d asked why he wasn’t with the person he drove into the States with (maybe George saw all of this coming). The horse shoe up Cole’s ass, as they say, and his people skills, were clearly not working for him.

I tried unsuccessfully to get Cole’s dad at work.  Cole informed me that his friend Brian’s dad, who lived in Vancouver, was driving to the border to pick him up. I was so, so grateful for Brian’s dad, whoever the hec he was, and glad Cole had the people skills he had, or this could have gotten far sketchier.

Another call from the other son – Hudson wanted to tell us he now had a job at a pizza place and that he wouldn’t be able to come home for reading break the following day as planned.  I assured him he could get another such job and told him that in case he decided he needed a break, I didn’t say – a break from  being seventeen-years-old and away for the first time, and overwhelmed by school work that should have been easy for you, and uncomfortable in residence –  in case he needed a break from all that, I wouldn’t cancel his plane ticket until the noon deadline the next day.

With all of the kids away but Lily, she got to be the target of my frustration.  In the time it took me to drive her to school while she ate her Cheerios and brushed her teeth in the car, (aiming I believe for yesterday’s spit spot out the window) I lectured her on how she would have no choice but to start university and finish it or not to bother going. As I let her out of the car, Hudson called to say the pizza place said he could start after reading break and yes, he would like to come home.  Cole called from Vancouver, where he had already been to the American Embassy to apply for a visa to work in Mammoth, California.  (Do they give visas to nineteen-year-olds when the job offer they want the visa for is in a skate shop?)

We picked Hudson up at 9:35 pm and talked about how he didn’t have to decide about what he would do in January just yet.  I cooked up a batch of sticky chicken wings for Lily and Hudson and he talked about his desire to maybe go to India or Tibet after he made some money in Calgary.  It had been a sketchy two weeks of connecting with the boys. Would it be easier if we weren’t linked by cell phones with updates on Californian cougars and borrowed cars entering the country illegally?  What sort of distressing phone call might I get from a kid in Tibet?