My mom’s car was impounded in Omaha this past weekend, and honestly, it was the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time.
We were celebrating the launch of the book So God Made a Mother. I was fortunate to be chosen as a contributor. I’d written about motherhood—adoption, specifically—and I thought, who better to bring as my plus-one for this event than my own mom?
It was a harder choice than you might imagine, though. My mom and I had drifted apart over the past decade, and motherhood was the wedge that had come between us.
She had become a mother with such ridiculous and fortunate ease. My own experience was not so lucky. Infertility was full of unexpected pressures and emotions. I was resentful that my own mother had what I so desperately wanted (four times over), and that I was to her exactly what I wanted for myself but could not have. It was a confusing paradox, one that had left me bitter and angry as I struggled to bear the impossible weight of my grief, a paradox in its own right, for how can you grieve what you’ve never even had?
Impossible or not, my grief was very, very real. It was quiet, private, and dark—suppressed, even—while hers was…well, it wasn’t any of those things. Her grief felt too loud, too public, too exposed. And I didn’t feel like she had the right to grieve my tragedy in that way.
I was angry, but not just with her. She hadn’t caused our infertility, and rationally, I knew that. I was angry with forces beyond my control, with circumstance, with the very Creator of the universe. But I needed someone to blame. My rage was a powder keg—I was loaded for bear with nowhere to shoot.
Mom was the only place I could expel my rage, so I aimed my guns at her.
And she shot back.
Fighting with my mom was like fighting with myself. We’re alike in so many ways, so I knew where to aim to inflict the most damage. I weaponized that knowledge, and I think she did the same.
I became a mother in the midst of that war zone.
Becoming a mother was hard. It was years of white-knuckled foster care, when I was clinging to children that I desperately wanted to call my own, but who only might become mine if the biological parents’ rights were terminated. I learned to love without the guarantee of reciprocity. I learned to make the most of the time I have with the kids in my care, to love them while I have them, because there are no guarantees in foster care.
Foster care is the hardest thing I have ever done.
Eventually, though, I realized that my mom was the reason I was strong enough to do it, and I put down my guns and called a truce.
Thankfully, my mom was open to it.
So this trip to Omaha wasn’t just a celebration of success and motherhood. It was a reunion of sorts.
Mom and I embarked on the five-hour drive with mild trepidation—we hadn’t spent any time alone together without fighting in years. But conversation flowed easily enough, and the drive passed rather quickly. The launch party was lovely, and Mom was my own personal paparazzi, capturing the night with photographs of me exchanging names and signatures and contact information with the other writers. It was such a joyous occasion, and I felt celebrated, not only by the awesome So God Made a Mother team, but by my mom. I was walking on air that night, despite the rain and the cold.
And then, when we woke up the next morning, Mom’s Jeep was gone.
It had been impounded.
Mom was distraught. I was furious. We had to be back in Minnesota for a family funeral on Monday. Tearful pleas from Mom and angry tirades from me did nothing to move the man who had mom’s Jeep. He claimed he could do nothing until Monday, and he would be charging us per day until then.
We were exasperated. We had no choice but to get out that juicer and some sugar and make some lemonade.
At this point, our misfortune went from tragic to hilarious.
We walked from our hotel room to grab some food, and it began to pour rain. Mom was drenched, because she had left her coat inside her car.
We rented a car from a private party that reeked of weed and lacked power locks and windows. The owner apologized for the smell—the previous renter had returned it with three air fresheners hanging from the mirror that had done nothing to mask the skunky-sweet stench—and gave us the option to cancel. The smell was…noticeable. But we were desperate, the car was cheap and readily available, and things were getting way more expensive than we’d initially planned, so we took it anyway.
Because of this inconvenience, I spent an extra 48 hours with my mom.
I don’t think I realized how badly I needed that extra time until we were caught up in it. We laughed so much—about the way the shady impound lot guy refused to give us the actual address of the lot, saying instead, “Look for the orange truck.” (Turns out there are more than a few orange trucks in Omaha. It took us a couple tries to find the place.)
We laughed when the shady impound lot guy refused to give her the Jeep back because she had just purchased it and didn’t have the registration in the glove box—it was still sitting at home on the counter.
We laughed as we waited for my dad to drive 40 miles home from work to take a photograph of the car title, and we giggled like teenagers when mom made the cash-only exchange with the shady impound lot guy, when he claimed he “didn’t have a pen” when she asked him for a receipt (I gladly provided one), when we watched him slouch into the lot, the rhinestones sparkling on the back pockets of his jeans as he walked, to retrieve her Jeep at last.
Like I said, everything was hilariously terrible at this point. We were as close to crying as we were to laughing, and thankfully, the scales tipped in favor of joy.
Our giddiness was compounded by relief as we returned the weedmobile and embarked home in mom’s new Jeep, and the five-hour drive passed quickly and easily, like time spent with an old friend.
It was a bonding experience—that extra time together proved precious, and I was able to ease back into relationship with my mom, to restore what had been lost between us. Laughter is the best medicine, and it proved to be a balm for us. I’m so thankful for those extra 48 hours, even though they were fraught with misfortune, because we were able to overcome what had stood between us for so long.
(Plus, Mom’s insurance reimbursed her for the tow.)