By Karen Borta

For weeks our son, who turns 15 tomorrow, has pestered us to allow him to go to one of those giant “house of horrors” places with his new high school friends. For weeks we’ve said ‘no’ because it either conflicted with our overloaded family schedule or because the idea of dropping off my baby in the parking lot of one of those places scared me senseless. I’m not sure which.

Anyway, last Friday– four days before his birthday and five days before Halloween– we relented. After all, he would be going with a really great group of kids, and this particular house of horrors was in a pretty good part of town, about 10 minutes from CBS 11.

My son had assured us that getting through the entire attraction would take two and a half to three hours. So the plan was for my husband to drop him off at eight o’clock and I’d pick him up after the 10PM newscast, at roughly 10:45.

There’s no doubt Jake was trying to mollify me when I asked him via one of our many texts that day whether his friends would be willing to hang out there with him until I arrived. The following is our text exchange: (and yes, I really do use punctuation when texting in the unlikely event it ever rubs off on my children.)

Karen/Mom: “Jake, I want you to make sure there are a lot of people there you know, and I want to make sure you will not be alone when I get you at 10:45. Do you understand?”

Jake: “Ok. Ok. I know everyone who’s going and I’ll ask someone to stay. Mom u gotta stop worrying about me so much. I know it’s a reaction cuz ur my mother but you gotta understand that I am getting older and in just a couple years I’m going to be LIVING on my own. I’ll be ok.”

Karen/Mom: “I will worry about you until the day I die– get used to it.”

That was at 6:40pm Friday. You can probably imagine how I felt when I got the next text message from him at 9:32.

Jake: “Hey it’s already over can you come get me”

If you guessed my reaction to be shock with a heavy dose of helplessness and terror, you’d be right. Even now as I write this, days after the fact, I remember that feeling of sickening dread.

Karen/Mom: “You are kidding me, right?”
Karen/Mom: “????”
Karen/Mom: “?????”

Jake: “No I’m not if u can’t get me it’s fine”

Karen/Mom: “Jake, I’m about to go in the air in 28 minutes. I’m sorry. So… you’re just going to wait there for an hour and 10 minutes by yourself?”

Jake: “No my friends r here”

By this time, I’m trying valiantly not to have a panic attack. Our station was in the second night of a very important ratings period. There’s no way I could chance leaving and not making it back in time. I know my husband would have picked Jake up, but he and the girls were watching a movie, and he’d silenced his phone. Making things worse, Jake texted me one more time– minutes before the start of the newscast– telling me everyone had left but his friend, Sam, and that Sam would be leaving soon.

Thank God for Sam’s mom to whom I now owe an enormous debt. It turns out she was unwilling to leave Jake all alone, so she decided to drive well out of her way to bring him to me at the station.

The silver lining in all of this is that– even though it took at least five years off my life and added 182 new grey hairs to my head– Jake was suitably humbled by the whole experience. He realized maybe he isn’t quite ready to take on the world, and that maybe his dear old mom is right every once in awhile.

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