My grown son called to tell me he bought a scooter. He lives in the city and has a job that requires on site appointments in multiple locations throughout the work day. Traffic in the city is impenetrable. He explained that a scooter allowed him to navigate the streets, park with ease and escape the costs of commuting. I haven't been able to draw a solid breath since.
It's not that I'm squeamish. As the mother of boys, I am quite broken in. In the first 10 years of parenthood, we had nine emergency room visits. Nine! To say we knew the triage team by name is a gross understatement. I was invited to the baby shower for the intake nurse who confided she liked our son's name but was afraid it would sentence her unborn son to a stream of accidents, like ours. She was not being harsh: we did have a run of bad luck for a while there. Foreheads split, fingers broke. We brought a sobbing boy to the ER with the skin of his chin hanging open after the cape of his Batman costume got tangled in the front wheel of his bike. There were half a dozen other superheroes in the ER that day which made me feel slightly less unlucky.
For years, I kept a large Tupperwear crate in the kitchen filled with butterfly bandages, gauze and Betadine. I knew how to wrap sprains and clean wounds. When our son split open the back of his head while racing in circles to Step in Time on the Mary Poppins tape, we were simply too tired (and too embarrassed) to go back to the emergency room, so we grabbed our supply kit and took control. I held the child's head over the toilet while my husband shaved the hair from the sides of the wound using a disposable (sterile) Bic razor. We flushed the gash with peroxide and secured the sides with butterflies. "This could leave a terrible scar," my husband noted, assessing the wound for leaks. "He'll be mad at us when he goes bald."
I shrugged and released the child to the wilds of our living room. "I don't care," I said. "I'll be dead by then."
One night we saw an ER Resident standing in line at the multiplex and he introduced us by name to his wife without any hesitation. "That's got to be a bad sign," my husband said as we walked into the theater, "that he knew our full names."
Later, as teens, they became daredevils. I learned meditative deep breathing which did nothing to counter their so called sports and activities; yet I survived high school football and downhill skiing, science experiments involving electricity, and summer jobs that required safety harnesses and proof of insurance.
One kid went scuba diving at night. The photos of his encounter with a barracuda were better suited to an audience who hadn't given birth to him. To me, he looked like bait.
One kid got a Groupon for sport flying, which turned out to be an introductory lesson in a single engine airplane that looked about as sturdy as a Pinewood Derby car. When he left the ground wearing headphones the size of soup bowls and a smile as long as the Nile, I maintained only one thought in my head: I'll never see him again.
They took vacations with other invincible young males who were all insufficiently skilled in the art of personal safety. They went ice climbing, zip lining, jet skiing and caving. They jumped off cliffs into water of unknown depth. And those are just the things I know about. More than once, we received official phone calls from hospitals and ambulance drivers who opened with "Are you the parents of..."
But I don't remember ever being quite this afraid.
The scooter terrifies me. I have visions of him scooting carefully along a city street, only to be knocked off the earth by an unassuming driver who makes a high-speed right turn from the left lane. Compared to a car, my scooter-riding son is as defenseless as a mosquito hovering near the tail of an elephant.
I wanted to tell him to be extra careful in traffic. I wanted to tell him to ride close to the curb or to invade the bike lane even though that's unlawful. I wanted to tell him to be mindful of aggressive drivers, distracted drivers, old drivers. But I did none of those things.
Instead, I bought a scooter horn for him to mount on the hand-grip. It emits an incredibly loud blast sure to intimidate cars and trucks with 136 decibels of honk. I felt better as soon as I bought it. I also bought a helmet for myself -- huge and black and shiny. If you can't beat 'em...
Then, I sent my son a text: Come and get me.