Last night, I ran out of gas on the freeway.

I haven’t pulled that particular stunt in Mary’s lifetime, but I deserve to stall quite often since I have a penchant for noting the empty gas gauge and then driving around for three more days. Usually I roll into a gas station just as the engine is processing the last fumes and I fill ‘er to the rim.

So as the car jolted slowly to a stop, I clicked on the hazard lights and finished my conversation with Emily (should I not be admitting to talking on the phone while I drive? It’s a bad, bad, bad idea. Let’s hope my dad isn’t reading this.) Night had fallen. Mary climbed out of her carseat and into my lap while the vibration from passing cars rattled our windows and doors.

It’s been a toilet clogged, computer broken, Erik traveling (um, 7 weeks in a row now), sleep-deprived sort of week and when Mary started to cry I was tempted to join her. Instead, I called Ben and pled for help.

13 minutes later his headlights shone in my rear view mirror, “Just stay in the car, mom. I’ve got it.” No complaints, no teasing–well, maybe a little teasing, “Be sure to go to the gas station, Mom. These two gallons won’t last a week.”

I drove home and reminisced about a night when he was 4 years old and had been screaming for the majority of the last 4 years. As I drove up and down the dark neighborhood streets I thought, “What if I just left him on a doorstep? Surely one of these nice people could raise him better than I?”

And today we sit in front of the computer as he fills out college applications– Brigham Young University, Utah State, University of Utah, Harvard (just for fun). Between reading his essays I’ve pulled out the shoe polish for my dusty boots and he scoffs at my efforts. “Here mom. Just stand still and I’ll show you the right way.” Two coats of brown polish, rub with a cloth, buff with a soft brush.

Is he trying to make sure I’ll miss him next year? Because I will.

Ben disapproves of posed pictures, “You have to capture the moment mom.” So I didn’t have one if him with the gas can or polishing my boots, but I did find this one from last month where he patched my flat tire. Ben fixes everyone’s tires–even neighbor kids– none of the rest of us even bother.

“You know, Ben,” I told him that day, “when you were a little kid I used to patch my own tires.”

“You did?” he spun the wheel in his hands, “Well that’s just sad.”

November 6, 2009



  1. Blue

    November 6, 2009

    love this post.
    he’s a cut above, that Ben.

  2. Azúcar

    November 6, 2009

    I think I might like everything you ever write.

  3. Linn

    November 6, 2009

    Now that was one sweet post–and one sweet boy. I’m with the others, I really just love anything you write.

  4. Kerri

    November 6, 2009

    So my kids might have a chance, even if I scream a little too much, a little too often? I love your Ben stories.

  5. Selwyn

    November 6, 2009

    It’s uni season alright =)

    When does uni start over there?

    Michelle, when are you going to get some calmer days? Soon I hope! xoxo me

  6. dalene

    November 6, 2009

    lovely. thank you.

  7. Kira

    November 6, 2009

    MY little guy turns 4 next week. Oh, how this post tugs at my heart strings. I already worry about that day he will leave me. He is already getting so independent. Is it possible how much we love these little gifts from God?

  8. Tracy

    November 6, 2009

    Love what you write. Love you.

  9. martha corinna

    November 6, 2009

    Oh Michelle, I really do love this. You give me hope for all of my young children who scream and yell and hit and bite…will they grow up to fetch me gas? I’m afraid I’m not nearly as mature as you though. Maybe I’ll get lucky.

  10. Sage

    November 6, 2009

    Love this! Your Ben is a treasure. How it stings the heart to have children! But in a good way.

  11. andrea

    November 6, 2009

    I just have to say I love that he spent the majority of his first four years crying and still turned out to be such an amazing almost grown up ;0). It’s a real testament to you and it gives me hope. Thank you!!!

  12. Sue

    November 6, 2009

    So true. Being nurtured by a son you have raised is so moving, on every level.

    Once, I was visiting my eldest son (without my husband), when something awful happened to my youngest son. I had dealt with the crisis all day, and when I got back to my eldest son’s house from the hospital, he saw my distress. I’ll never forget how he took me in his arms, just like his dad would have done if he’d been there, and comforted me. It was soul satisfying.

    There’s a poem in my book about this very reciprocity:

    Oh for a son
    when my head is bowed
    and years have lined my face––
    A stalwart son
    with a gentle heart,
    where I still hold
    a mother’s place.

    Oh, for a son
    when eyes grow dim
    and memories recede––
    A spirited son,
    a steadfast son,
    who sees but does not
    fear my need.

    ©2003 by Susan Noyes Anderson, “His Children,” Vantage Point Press

    A beautiful post, Michelle. Thank you.

  13. GeorgiaBecksteads

    November 6, 2009

    Good thing you didn’t drop him off at a doorstep – you’ve done a fabulous job! Just look at him!

  14. jess

    November 7, 2009

    so needed this today. this line: “I drove home and reminisced about a night when he was 4 years old and had been screaming for the majority of the last 4 years. As I drove up and down the dark neighborhood streets I thought, “What if I just left him on a doorstep? Surely one of these nice people could raise him better than I?” — that is how I have felt today and have seriously wondered if I will ever have a day where I don’t feel completely overwhelemed, overtired, and unappreciated. or one where i won’t be tempted to swear (seriously, I never ever in my life thought to swear until I had a 2 year old). Thanks for sharing your precious Ben with us and giving me hope that it will all be worth it in the end. And I’m sure it has everything to do with his awesome mom.

  15. Coach A.

    November 14, 2009


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