A Love Supreme

There is an adolescent boy who rides my bus in the mornings. He’s maybe 13? Maybe 12? I’ve been watching him grow up the four years I’ve been living in my neighborhood. He boards with his mom. They are beautiful in a sharp, austere way. They sit together and talk about his homework, or the book he’s reading, or whatever.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed that he boards and finds a seat, not looking around to see if there’s a seat for his mom. She accepts and sits or stands near-ish. They don’t interact. I get the wanting to sit separately. God forbid one of his friends should catch him enjoying the ride with his mother … or worse, what if some girl saw him? I get it, but I’m sad for the loss of those heads-tilted-close conversations.

More, I’m sad to see that he is often visibly angry with her and not wanting to have anything to do with her. And I get that, too, I guess. He’s hit that age, right? The age where you are always and always angry with your parents and don’t want anything to do with them (I know this from books, from TV and the movies, you understand … I never actually moved through that phase myself … no, I’m serious).

I get it, but I feel for his mom. She takes it all in stride, never betraying even a hint of sadness or betrayal.

This morning was an angry morning. He got on, his face closed and pinched, walked to the back and sat in the one seat. She found a place to stand midway through the bus and grabbed a pole. A few stops later, a seat opened behind her and she sat …

And before we’d gotten back up to speed, he was in the aisle next to her seat, half-leaning on her, his face calm again, his hand on her shoulder. By the time I left the bus, they were “talking like old times,” no hint of his anger, of his desire to be seen anywhere but with her.

Does it work that way? Is that why she can look so calm when he snubs her, because she knows there will still be those moments when he lets himself remember that he loves her, that he wants to be next to her, wants the physical contact of her next to him? Can mothers tell? Do the know that it’s going to be alright,? Is there something they watch for in this angry phase that clues them in, lets them know the child they love is behind the closed, pinched mask?

no other love is like this love.
not one other
there will be loves
and love’s
but this first love
will still

Yeah, still feeling a little forced, even with the inspiration of my neighbors. But I’m less troubled (must be the exhasution). Happy that I got to write “love’s thrall” and let myself get away with it! That was actually the first rhyme I thought of. What does that say about my brain, that the first rhyme for “all” that came into my head was “thrall”!

* A Zeno poem: 10 lines, syllables = 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1, rhyme pattern = a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d

9 thoughts on “A Love Supreme

  1. This poem is lovely. It holds a lot of meaning for me. I like how in this one, the last rhyme doesn’t sound like too much. (That’s the way the form feels to me, not something particular to the ones of yours I’ve read.)

    My daughter went through this phase and we survived it with our relationship intact. As I look back, I wonder if manufacturing all that resistance was how she broke away from my “rule” during adolescence in order to become a woman. We had been so close when she was little. All her life she has said that I’m her best friend. When I examine that, it feels sad. I’m her mother and I know I hold a special place in her heart, but friends should be different. Everyone should have at least one extremely close, best friend. Like Oprah and Gayle. I don’t, many of us don’t, and I never wanted that for my daughter.

    Teenagers can be hateful to each other even though they have such similar feelings. Scientists say their hormones can actually drive them a little mad for a while, and we know how individual hormone levels fluctuate. It must be hard for adolescent boys to be vulnerable with their mothers, especially in public.


    1. I always wonder how and why I managed to grow up without going through this phase with my mother. And then I think maybe my “phase” just manifested in different ways. I’m glad you and your daughter found your way back. I hope my neighbor and her son will, too. I think you’re right about how difficult it must be for boys to be vulnerable with their moms in public. And how they come through that difficult time surely has something to do with how well they’re able to deal with vulnerability as men.


  2. molly

    Mothers don’t always know it will work out. I try to remember that every day an adolescent survives, eats, sleeps, and is not addicted to something is a good day. Sometimes children do not make peace with their parents, sometimes they do not feel the need to make war (as in your case), but the letting go, on both sides, is as inevitable as getting older. Some mothers do kick and scream their way through the separation. I like the image of the mother you observe on the bus, getting on with her life, and if the boy wants to be close, ready for that, too. That is what mothers do, I think: let the children go and play, and try to be there when they want to tell us the story of their adventures (or have us fix their broken knees). Not just for them, but for us. Motherhood is selfish and gratifying, a lucky condition.


    1. Yes, this difficult phase is definitely a negotiation — the parents have as much to do with how it works as the child, as much to do with how difficult it will be as the child. I wonder how many parents realize that early enough to moderate their responses accordingly.


  3. Yes, we are our children’s first loves. Wonderful Zeno.

    No, we don’t always know if it will work out. I know there was a year in which I had lost touch with one of my sons at such a level I was not sure I would ever get it back. Eventually, we did find a way through it, but it was really rough going. All you can do is let them know you’re still there for them as they try to find their own way of making it and pray you can regain some if not all of that first love closeness at some point.


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