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I can admit it.

I now desperately need my glasses. This was cemented by the moment at ACL Music Festival this year in which I realized: I cannot read the schedule. If you need to whip out your reading glasses to see the band lineup, there is a serious chance you are too old for ACL. Luckily, I was way cooler than that. I took a quick pic of it with my phone and did the “pinchy finger old lady zoom.”

It’s not only words I see better with glasses. It’s people, too.

I recently unearthed a buried memory of being at a restaurant in Monaco when our son, Luke, was a toddler. It was a Texas-themed restaurant called Stars and Bars, and I hope it’s still open because I had some serious fun there back in the day. Anyway, we were there because it had something extremely rare in Europe: a staffed kids’ playroom. We could have cocktails in peace while Luke was well supervised, getting his face painted and playing games. Parent heaven.

Feeling a bit nervous, we excused ourselves midway through dinner and went to take a quick peek through a window into the playroom. Something surreal happened as we watched our son through the looking glass. We stood and viewed him like a silent movie. He was oblivious to our observing him, having fun, not looking or pining for us at all. Perhaps it was the first time I experienced him awake and unaware of me as I watched him. The realization hit me square in the stomach that one day my little baby was going to have a life beyond me and without me. It sounds silly to describe this to you now; I almost backspaced over that sentence for the sheer vulnerability of it. But in that moment even my rather unsentimental husband had eyes full of tears.

Fast-forward 15 years later to Luke’s 16th birthday this past October. I dropped a very important ball by missing the mommy memo explaining that you have to sign up for driving tests online at least two weeks in advance. I felt so bad for him that I woke up early on his birthday and drove around to various TxDMV offices to beg for redemption. I got turned away everywhere, scoffed at and dismissed for my maternal oversight. One nice lady took pity on me and referred us to the Pflugerville location. I woke up my birthday boy and we headed north.

At least I had all the required paperwork. Luke did his eye exam, fingerprinting and smiled for his photo against the blue background. Then the man behind the desk asked what time our driving test appointment was. I had to come clean, “Not until the end of the month. I totally blew it. Can you please help?” I swallowed hard, sweating, squeezing my crossed fingers so tightly that my knuckles hurt. He typed silently on his computer for endless moments. “Can you come back at 4 pm today? We had a cancellation.”

“Hot damn! I mean yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” I wanted to hug him.

We were back in Pflugerville well before “pfour” and ready to go. We got in line again and they instructed Luke to drive around back and find lane one and wait for his turn. Wait, he drives around the back alone? God, I was not ready for this. I handed him my car keys and he walked away, through the glass door into the parking lot, leaving his mother and his childhood behind. I sat on a hard plastic chair and waited, heart racing, mindlessly fiddling with my phone and checking the time that would not pass.

Finally a text message buzzed: I passed.

I watched those glass doors, a ridiculous grin plastered to my face. A man, dressed like my son, walked back in and straight into my arms. I was not sure how 7 lbs., 9 oz. could suddenly turn into 6’2” and 235 lbs. with a driver’s license, but it had happened.

We drove straight to his dad’s house to pick up his car (a used Chevy pickup truck for our Texas kid). I waited outside the driveway for Luke to pull out behind me. I knew he knew the way home, but I wanted to make a procession out of his inaugural drive. I wanted to watch this.

I was fine until the stoplight at West Lynn. No, his car didn’t hit me – but everything else did. All of it. All at once. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw my baby boy, now a beautiful grown man, driving a truck. I could not breathe, suffocated by 16 years of love crammed into one moment. I saw him again through the looking glass, just like I had in Monaco so many years before. He was looking down, messing with the air or the radio, and when he looked up he caught my eye and smiled at me – a smile of relief, love, gratitude and sweet freedom. It was my undoing, though I waited until late at night to have my cry.

Sometimes the proper lens offers us the perspective to really see our lives, and the beloved people in it.

CREDITS

Illustration by Joy Gallagher

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