Journalist of the Year Portfolio

Isn’t that car pretty feminine?

Kobe

I don’t know much about cars, but I know I should have a new one by now.

No, there’s nothing wrong with what I’m driving today. In fact, my hand-me-down Subaru Outback works just fine. It has leather seats, it’s fuel efficient and when it comes to rap music, the Outback knocks it out of the park.

But the metallic-navy SUV does have one problem. Pulling into the junior parking lot in the mornings, I can’t help but hear the words echoing in the back of my mind.

Kobe, isn’t that car pretty feminine?

No it’s not. Outbacks are built for the outdoors, and the outdoors are just about as manly as it gets, right? Plus, what makes you the car expert, and what makes your car so manly?

I’ll hear this all the time. Some cars fly under their radar, while for some reason, they chose my navy Subaru Outback as the “feminine” car.

So when my dad told me a few months ago the car’s lease was almost up and I would be getting a new car, I’ll admit, I was excited for months.

Finally — a chance to get off their radar, escape their jokes and get a car to make people respect me for the man I am.

But like I said, I don’t know much about cars. Plus, I’m usually pretty busy, so I asked my dad if he’d do the research for a new car and let me choose from what he found.

A few weeks later, my Subaru was washed, taken to the shop, appraised and ready to leave our garage.

Like a kid with the biggest, coolest present on Christmas, I told all my friends with a joke’s-on-you smile, “I’m getting a new car this week.” And like I had hoped, each time, I got that satisfying, “Oh, that’s cool” as a response.

But that Sunday afternoon, the Outback was still parked in front of our drink-and-ice-cream-only refrigerator in the garage. Confused, I walked back inside to the kitchen and sat down on one of the black-leather bar stools next to the counter.

My mom’s working on her computer across from me, probably emailing some patients who need her help.

Like any other mom, she’s the heart of our whole family. Organizing our schedules, cleaning up after us and loving us when we just need someone to talk to. But unlike any other mom, she is somehow able to work five different part-time jobs and manage her type-one diabetes, for the most part, by herself.

She’s still typing on her computer while I situate myself on the leather stool, so I wait a couple seconds before I say what’s on my mind. Then, trying to play it cool, I casually ask the question.

What ever happened to my car? Wasn’t I supposed to get a new one by now?

My dad has always said my mom and I tend to fight like an old married couple — even though we love each other, we know the perfect ways to get under each other’s skin. It’s not as if we’re constantly fighting, but like any teenager and his mom, we’re not always on the same page.

But sitting on opposite ends of the kitchen counter, we are marching into one of the bloodiest battles of the 17-year war waged between mother and son.

Well, we decided to just buy out the lease so you can keep the Outback…

What? Why did you do this without telling me?

We go at it for a solid five minutes, launching missiles across the kitchen counter, just waiting for one side to concede and wave the white flag. But I can only bend her so much before she snaps. Next thing I know, we’re putting down the artillery and she is crying in my arms.

In between the panting breaths, she tells me how hard it’s been recently, how my dad’s back pain and impending surgery is dominating his entire life, and as a result, dominating hers. My dad has just been in too much pain to figure out my car, and even though she tried, my mom couldn’t pick up the slack.

The next thing I know, she is hiding the tears — realizing she doesn’t have all day to hug and cry. And with my brother nudging her to drive him to taekwondo, the red, puffy eyes that were just crying are now walking out the door.

But later that night, while I’m doing homework, she softly knocks on my door in an attempt not to bother me too much.

Thanks for letting me get emotional earlier…

She’s smiling as if she were in the wrong. As if she was apologizing for her actions. As if I was supposed to just ignore what she said just a few hours ago.

My mind is whirling around, and I’m not sure how to respond. I muster up a haphazard, “love you,” wrapped in a soft smile. She closes the door and I sit there for a few minutes, overwhelmed.

That’s when I realized just how strong she has to be everyday. She doesn’t have time to be emotional, to make it all about her. In her mind, she has to be there for us, and that’s what matters. But sitting in the silence of my room, I knew I needed to be there for my mom. To be there for the woman who makes my home run.

So for the rest of high school, you’re likely to see me pull into school with the same navy Subaru, accepting all the jokes from my friends. And even though I may look a bit feminine behind the wheel, that’s okay with me. Because I’m doing it for my mom.

What kind of son and brother would I be if I had put my foot down on this one and not’ve been there when my mom — who’s always there for me — needed me for once.

So yeah, I’ll drive the Subaru and accept the jokes. And even if I do look feminine behind the wheel, that’s all right with me.

Because my mom’s feminine — and I want to be just like her.