Mind Spinning Life | Behind the Scenes with Susan Keller

This post is part of a series of behind the scene posts authored by the Where The Boys regular contributors. This is our opportunity to share with you the very best of us and our different perspectives on mothering / capturing / documenting our sons. Our hope is that in these posts you find encouragement and inspiration in your journey of celebrating your son(s). 

Today's post is brought to you by Susan Keller. To get to know the author better and connect with their work visit her individual page here

Something really BIG happened this year. My firstborn left home and began his freshman year of college.  I’m still not totally sure how this happened, because I’m only 24 years old.  Heh, so I guess two big things happened; in addition to the College Kid leaving, I also turned 48 seemingly overnight.  Please bear with me through this stream-of-consciousness string of events; truth be told, my mind still spins with it all.  (Note: I passed this post by my son first so that he could defend or amend as he saw fit.  His additions are in bold.)

We are a roadtripping family.  And very occasionally we hop on a plane to do our travels.  I take pictures (duh).  Lots of pictures.  And, I actually print them.  I have a few piles of them, here and there.  A couple months back, my dad picked up my coffee table pile and was looking through them all.  His comment at the end of his perusal was something to the effect of, “You all have traveled, all together, a lot. I can’t remember a single time my whole family (he was one of five siblings) got in a car together and went somewhere.”  (btw, here’s m’dad, way back in his little whippersnapper days).


As Dad’s quiet statement washed over me, I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude and awareness of the preciousness of our many travels.  Gone - for the moment anyway -  were all the memories of vomit (in the car, in the countryside, in the hotel rooms), peeing in the car, and grumpy company.  Speaking of grumpy company … meet my firstborn:

3-college kid.jpg

This is my kid who used to mock teenagers and their weird ways.  And then he turned 12.75 years old, and he became that moody-broody teenager that he’d previously mocked.  For the next [approximately … I mean, it’s not like I actually kept track … no, I take that back, I tracked closely … exactly] 3.75 years he tried, off and on, to wrap our entire family in his big, gloomy, black blanket.  Which made roadtripping, all together all the time, in one confined-car-space … interesting.  Ahem.  That big gloomy blanket seemed especially overwrought the year we drove from SoCal up to WA and hit Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Yellowstone NP, Grand Tetons NP, fishing streams, and a buffalo reserve all along the way.  Notice that my beloved oldest son is decidedly missing from most of my family pictures from that trip.


4-yellowstone roadtrip.jpg

He briefly made an appearance below, because he was intent on photographing Natiri in her element (remember when McDonalds distributed the Avatar action figures? We stopped at so many stinkin’ McD’s on this trip to complete our “collection”).  You know why my firstborn son is missing from so many photos on that trip?  Because he stayed in the car. Despite the heat. Despite the amazingness of where we were. He stayed. In the car.  He said that he wanted to be able to make the claim that he had officially taken his last steps on national park land.  Oh yeah, that was a proud parent moment.  We’ll tell that story on his wedding day.  (I wonder if his future wife will be an outdoor adventurer?  Wouldn’t that be funny??)  It's spelled Neytiri, but if you want to retain the misspelling to show your total indifference towards Avatar, that works.


5-natiri does zion.jpg

He kept to his word next time we visited Joshua Tree NP - almost.  The bacon bbq-ing on the insanely cold morning did lure him out momentarily.


And here in Yosemite he mostly stayed in the car.  My littlest (who’s wearing a straw hat he bought at the dollar store to keep the rain off his head!) threw snowballs at him anyway.  In my defense, I was reading Michael Crichton’s Prey at the time, which was a bit of a page turner and also had a much more impressive page count than anything I’m accustomed to reading as a “smart” college student (currently trying to get through Slaughterhouse Five).


Kauai’s magicalness lures out even the most stubborn of us.  Sometimes he joined us, sometimes he stayed back at the house.

By our Washington DC “homeschool/educational field trip”, the gloomy blanket was finally retired (whew!), and some of our destinations were those of his choosing…

And there was no way any one of the boys was going to forsake the quad-ing on the sand dunes roadtrip …

Which brings me, more or less, to the days just before my firstborn left us for college.  ‘Twas time to do his senior pictures, and I was letting him choose his location.  Go ahead, guess where he picked?  Joshua Tree NP.  Irony, right?  You may have nudged me a little in that direction to start (hmm, I remember offering a super cool cave on the beach), and I may have agreed to it with the same shruggish “uhhh, sure” I use to answer every open-ended question, but you can call it a promising change.

And on moving day, as he was unpacking everything he’d brought with him (which wasn’t much) to inhabit his teeny-tiny dorm room, guess whom I saw set up on his desk?  Natiri.  Alack and alas, she had to spend a lot of lonely days completely by herself on that desk, in part due to the teeny-tininess of the space and to my habit of never sleeping.  I resolve to spend a lot more time with poor, neglected Neytiri next semester – not really.

And just like that, we stepped into a whole new normal.  College Kid and Natiri 100 miles from home. And roadtrips with four of us, not five.  And when I do my unconscious head counts (when does that ever stop?!?), I’m still one short. Honestly, it all still feels a little weird.