Making Out: Raw

Making Out is a series centered on how Jess Burnquist, mother, writer, and teacher is "making out' as she processes adolescent issues amid the glare of parenthood and the shadows of nostalgia.

“Mom. Mom. Mommy!”

I wake up startled, dazed. Andrew is standing near my bed. At first, blurry eyed, I mistook him for my husband. At 17, he is more man than boy.

“Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I’m going fishing and I didn’t want you to worry,” He blows me a kiss and I remain in bed trying to get my panicked heart to stop racing.


I start to wake. The desire to call him back surfaces as does the desire to join him.

I am raw.

This week began with the worst modern mass shooting in America. I, like so many, am going through the motions of processing with the understanding that nothing about this will ever make sense.

I, like so many, have taken my thoughts to social media to seek out a collective sense of connection and I have dealt with this news in private as well. Yesterday, I found myself wailing in my driveway. My fists pounded the driver’s seat and steering wheel as my family slept.

In public spaces, there are voices that need to be heard far more than mine. The writer in me won’t permit me to be silent but I won’t come to this topic as anything other than as a mother.

It is my motherhood that won’t permit me to look away from the last moments, the text messages from Eddie Jamoldroy Justice to his mother who awoke to a new and never ending horror. It is my motherhood that wishes to somehow absorb the pain for families to whom I am a stranger.

I wonder if it is my motherhood that makes my humanity pulse and wade through the details, the politics of this week. Perhaps.


Amid the necessary conversations, the anger and the grief over what could and should have been prevented, I consider how to discuss what happened with my son and daughter.

Andrew is drawn to a discussion regarding access to weapons first. He moves, then, to the ages of the victims. My daughter immediately discusses her disgust with intolerant people near and far. I permit them to speak. I wait for questions. I admit often to not knowing.

I notice that they don’t ask about the gunman. They are learning that irrational people can’t be rationalized.

I tell them that I have joined Mom’s Demand Action—a group formed after Sandy Hook working for gun control. My daughter asks if she can join.

“It’s a group for mothers.”

“Well, what can I do?”

Andrew says he knows what he will do. He won’t permit any kind of bashing or seemingly harmless joking about sexuality to take place in his presence without calling it out. Lilly agrees.

We sit together in our living room. The sun is beginning to set. I acknowledge for the umteenth time this summer how adult they are both becoming. There is a sudden urge to hold them to me like I did when they were young. An even deeper urge to place them back inside my body—out of the way of this harmful and broken world. I fight back tears, and then just let them fall.

They move closer. It is my motherhood that forces me to move forward.

What should we do for dinner, I ask. The waning light has created a glow in our room. Andrew and Lilly don’t budge from the dusk lit space. This glow could be love.

I widen my eyes to resist the urge to blink knowing that when I do they might be gone.

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