Just imagine how welcome a 59-year-old mother is in her 22-year-old son’s bachelor pad, which is shared with two other young men. He’d already been there for six months. My husband had seen the place a few weeks ago.
“It’s very masculine,” he’d explained.
But I didn’t manage to weasel my way in till our son got sick and begged us to bring him some pho from our usual Sunday morning Vietnamese restaurant brunch. (Everyone at the Vietnamese restaurant was, of course, concerned. “Where’s your son?” the restaurant owner asked. “Just you two?” the waitress wanted to know. “Not Nick?” No, he was sick, we had to explain again and again.)
“Tell him we’re coming up to his apartment,” I whispered to my husband, who was engaged in tense pho-delivery negotiations with our son. “I haven’t seen it yet, remember?”
However, I had seen the hovel he shared with a friend when they were both matriculating in Australia in 2007, a semester abroad I usually described as an effort to enhance their English-speaking abilities. The place had been such a dump, I’d been reluctant to sit down anywhere (like I could have found a couple of feet of clear space, anyway). I’d just stood up, arms crossed over my chest, reminding myself to buy hand-disinfectants at the earliest possible opportunity but, in the meantime, not to touch a thing.
“We’ll bring the pho up to your apartment,” my husband said.
We arrive. Our son meets us at the door, pale and sneezing and drippy, then herds us upstairs. We meet two of his roommates. They have a TV twice the size of ours in their living room.
“Is this where you get together to watch PBS?” I ask.
We stroll down the hall, past a few photos of naked women. My husband’s right. There’s definitely a masculine vibe in this place. Here and there, you can see glimpses of the formerly beige carpet underfoot. “We’ve been cleaning up since we heard you were coming,” our son explains between sneezes.
Faster than you can say thank-you-for-the-pho, we are escorted outside and head to our car. I breathe in some fresh air, grateful for all kinds of things: 1) We didn’t have to stay long; 2) I’m a mother with very low standards; and 3) They’ve only got six more months on their lease, assuming they don’t get evicted. If I play my cards right, I’ll probably never have to see the place again.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)