What Kind of Mom Does That?
June 30, 2022
It all started with a traffic jam in LA.
I was 21 years old and was working at a Christian camp in the Angeles National Forest for the summer. I had the weekend off and decided to drive home to San Diego to see my parents. I left late Friday afternoon and hit bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour in Los Angeles. It sucked. And I realized I should have waited until after rush hour to leave the camp. But I didn’t.
I was creeping along, completely aggravated, but then I had an idea. Why not stop at a movie theater and kill a couple of hours watching a movie, then get back on the freeway and head to San Diego? That would be a better use of the next couple of hours than sitting on the freeway would. It made no difference if I arrived home late that Friday. So I pulled into the theater to wait it out, and I chose a movie.
My Best Friend’s Wedding. Chick flick! Julia Roberts! Can’t go wrong!
And it didn’t go wrong. It went terribly right. Looking back I think God knew what I needed to do that weekend, and the movie was the way to get me to do it.
You’ve probably seen it, but let me refresh your memory. Julianne has been best friends for nine years with a guy she briefly dated, Michael, but they “were a wrong fit right from the start,” so they agreed to be friends instead. They stayed close and have seen each other through life’s ups and downs. All is well, until she finds out at the last minute that he is getting married in four days, and she suddenly decides she wants him for herself and frantically goes to break up the wedding. Jules has another best friend, George, and she asks George what Michael is going to do when she admits she loves him right before he is set to marry someone else. George says, “He’ll choose Kim. And you’ll watch them drive off into the sunset. And you’ll do what you came to do: say Goodbye.”
You guys, I sat there in the dark in the theater and cried. Let me tell you why. The very next day was the wedding of a dear friend of mine. Someone I used to think I would marry, way back when. We never actually dated. Because we were a wrong fit right from the start. But we did talk about marriage. What we wanted in a spouse. He said he wanted to marry someone like me. And I naively wished it would happen. And my roommate once accused me of being in love with him. But he moved away, which was a good thing, because I knew in my heart he wasn’t right for me. We were a wrong fit right from the start.
But still I sat there in the theater crying, remembering what it felt like when I wanted to marry this guy, and in the movie as Jules is toasting the newly married couple at the reception with tears in her eyes and saying, “My best friend has married the best woman, “ I knew I had to go to his wedding the next day. Had to.
I hadn’t planned to attend his wedding because, for one thing, I didn’t have anyone to go with me. My boyfriend Seth, (who would later become my husband), was at home in Oregon for the summer. And it was a long drive over to Phoenix where the wedding was. And what was the point? This guy and I weren’t as close as we once were, which was good because he was getting married to someone else and I already knew I wanted to marry Seth. So as his wedding approached, I gave up on trying to attend. It seemed it wasn’t meant to be.
Until I watched that movie. And I had to go. Had to. Not because I wanted to tell him I loved him and he should marry me instead, but to say Goodbye. To see him marry someone else and remember all the reasons why we didn’t work out, and all the reasons why I was with the right guy, which was Seth.
I don’t remember what time I left that movie theater in Los Angeles to head for San Diego. I didn’t have a cell phone back then, so I think I called my parents from a pay phone to let them know I was going to arrive late. And I drove down the dark freeways with an urgent panic in my heart. I have to get to the wedding tomorrow. But how?
That was a long time ago, so my memories of that night are a bit hazy, but what I do remember is standing in my parents’ living room around midnight, crying, telling them about the movie and how I just had to be at his wedding in the morning.
And I remember my mom saying, “Let’s go, then. Let’s pack up some things and go. I’m going with you.” She said we would drive all night from San Diego to Phoenix. We would be there in time for the wedding at 11:00. And after the wedding we would turn around and drive back. We’d take turns. And she would be by my side through it all. I’m not a spontaneous person, and I don’t think my mom is either, but she jumped right in. She knew I needed her. And she was going to see me through this, giving up sleep and driving off into the desert in the summer in a car without air conditioning.
What kind of mom does that? My mom did.
I remember the beautiful sunrise on that Saturday morning as we drove east and neared Phoenix. I remember calling this guy that morning to tell him I decided to come and I was in town, and could I stop by to say hello? I think I met him outside his house. We visited for a few minutes. And I mentioned the reason I decided to come was because of the movie I watched last night, My Best Friend’s Wedding.
No, I didn’t say to him, “Choose me! Marry me!” like Julianne did in the movie. Because that wasn’t why I came. What I did say was that I was glad I would be there to see him get married.
I remember being at his wedding later that morning, with my mom by my side, watching him pledge his life to this other woman. And I was happy for both of them. I remember sitting at his reception, with my mom by my side, watching all the wedding festivities. I remember dancing with him during the money dance, and in my heart I did what I came to do: I said Goodbye.
And then sometime in the afternoon, my mom and I got in the car to head home to San Diego. I need you to know that it was summer, and it was mid-afternoon, and our little Ford Festiva did not have air-conditioning. We were drenched in sweat. It was rough. We stopped at a gas station and my mom bought a bag of ice that we dumped on our shoulders and let drip on us as we drove across the scorching desert, trying not to roast. She never complained. She knew I needed to go, and she knew I needed her there.
What kind of mom does that? My mom did.
We arrived home in San Diego on that Saturday night, exhausted. And I must have thanked her, but I don’t remember that part. I hope I did.
And if I didn’t, because I was only 21 and consumed by myself and my own emotions and the need for closure, I’m thanking you now, Mom. Now that I’m a mom myself, it strikes me how beautiful it was that you decided to do that. I didn’t need to beg. You just saw my tears, and you saw my heart, and you said, “Let’s go, then.”
Moms and dads out there, you might be tempted to look back on raising your kids and see all your Failures. But your kids will look back and see your Triumphs.