Every year my twins, now 14, and I set out on a summer pilgrimage to visit my mother at our extended family home on northern Lake Michigan. It can be a remarkably boring 25-hour road excursion unless my husband decides to fly and I drive alone. It then seems that the asphalt gods take notice and turn my trip into an interstate rodeo.
So, let’s set the stage. One mother, two teenage boys, three cell phones, a map and a bike rack.
About that bike rack.
Two summers ago while we driving along I-70 in downtown Topeka at high noon, our bicycles flew off their rack into the middle of the road. Fortunately for us, there was very little traffic and we could clearly see the bikes skimming along the centerline before stopping. A good Samaritan ran into the highway, retrieved the bike pieces and drove them back to our car. Later that evening, the event topped my social media post. That’s when my 92-year-old-Facebook-following mother called. “Was I all right?” “Are the boys upset?” and “Can you fix the bikes?” I should have known better. Nothing gets past her.
This summer, we set out with two new bikes (and a new rack) once again in the direction of Kansas. The weather forecasters were all a twitter with watches and warnings ranging from severe to tornadic. We successfully skirted some far-off funnel clouds, but, alas, as we crossed over the Nebraska border, the country radio announcer led me to believe there was no way out as a tornado was on the ground in St. Somewhere.
For 20 very long miles on a rural highway with nary a structure in sight, I asked the boys to look at a map to locate St. Somewhere.
Boy #1. “I don’t know how to read a map”
And I thought not teaching cursive in school was an issue.
At that point I put my boys on high alert, asking them to put down their phones, place their shoes back on their feet and look for a nice ditch.
Boy #2. “Why?” (Apparently the piercing cry of the radio’s weather alert system had been mistaken for Fortnite’s siren Evil Lair).
In the midst of the chaos, my phone started ringing.
The screen lit up: Mom.
I didn’t have to answer to know why she was calling. Later that night when we were securely checked into the first floor of a two-story motel—requested just in case a tornado sheared off the top—and a supper of snickers bars and Oreos from the motel vending machine—(because of street flooding, we were essentially stranded), I checked my voicemail. Sure enough, my mother was calling me FROM MICHIGAN to report that there were tornadoes in Kansas and Nebraska.
Admittedly, my mother is a news junkie: CNN, MSNBC and PBS are her personal monograms. But, she also has her very own channel—a channel that requires no satellite, antennas or remote controls. It operates solely on intuition and radar well beyond the capabilities of NASA.
It’s called the Mother Channel.
It’s automatically activated by the birth of a child and streams 24-hours a day, without commercial interruption; in fact you can’t turn it off. It will keep you awake for hours in the middle of the night when your gut says something isn’t right.
Otherwise known as a “funny feeling.”
There have been countless times in my life that my mother has called to see how I was doing, at the precise time when I wasn’t doing well at all. Have I been a beacon of despair? Still a small child in a big world—despite my age?
In the end, we don’t need maps—we just need mothers. Their well-honed intuition and navigational skills will bring us home every time.