Some parents bond with their teens over sports or music. And some of us bond over wendigos, vampires and a classic car named Baby.
Baby is a black 1967 Chevy Impala that is practically home to monster-hunting brothers Sam and Dean Winchester in the long-running CW hit show “Supernatural.” Sam and Dean (played by Austin-based actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) hit the screen again Oct. 10 for the series’s 15th and final season (7 p.m. Thursdays, the CW).
My oldest son, Michael, now 18, inadvertently got me hooked on “Supernatural.” I overheard him and a friend discussing the show on numerous occasions. I hadn’t even heard of it, so I gave it a try. We finally had something to talk about! We would sit mostly in silence each week and watch new episodes, and he would quote a line from what we had watched through the week, like a secret code just for us.
“Supernatural” is creepy and funny, sometimes at the same time, and it struck a chord with me as a mom of three boys. Sam and Dean have battled demons, angels, witches and many more creatures bent on evil, but the thread through every hunt is family. With their parents gone for most of the series, the brothers stick together through good and bad and would die (and have died!) for one another. Dean has sold his soul to bring his brother back to life, and Sam literally went to hell to save Dean (well, and the entire world). Yet they laugh a lot along the way. This do-or-die bond is what family is all about.
I discovered the show had fan conventions, so I booked a mom-son weekend and off to New Orleans we went. We met several main characters, made new fan friends and found time to do some sightseeing as well. (Note to other moms: A walk down Bourbon Street with your 16-year-old on Halloween might not put you in the Motherhood Hall of Fame. Lesson learned.)
RELATED: Should you splurge on concerts for your kids? This dad says yes
At the convention, Michael was able to see that his favorite actors were real people, and that they absolutely cared about their fans. And I saw my son in a completely different light on the trip: I discovered a contemplative, sweet young man with a wicked sense of humor. Our relationship was forever changed for the better. “What would the Winchesters do?” became a frequent filter for our interactions, sometimes as a joke and sometimes as a way to stay sane in the chaos of a house full of boys.
Last fall, the convention hit my hometown of Minneapolis. We headed north and again found the welcoming “Supernatural” family, both the cast and the fans. The strongest family bond we found, however, was with each other. We were able to see each other as adults, not just mother and son. I could see him relating the fictional story of the Winchesters with real families and understanding how love can conquer anything, even the devil himself.
Our link through the show opened the door for me to show my son where I was born and introduce him to some of the things I love. We toured U.S. Bank Stadium, and I immersed him in all things Vikings. One wall of the stadium showcases helmets from many Minnesota high schools. I was thrilled to find one from my school (go Windom Eagles!) and was able to use it as an opening for some mom stories from back in the day. He didn’t roll his eyes one time. Victory!
Michael had no idea who Prince was, and after recovering from shock and horror, I marched him over to Paisley Park for an amazing tour. I played the Purple One’s music in the rental car, and that started a conversation about the music he listens to and why he likes it. We visited family and friends and found the headquarters of Target, which he has always known is my favorite place to shop. We had the famous original Juicy Luci burgers at Hell’s Kitchen (the original, not the Gordon Ramsay version). He was just as excited to see these things as I was.
As the trip unfolded, my usually reticent son opened up a little, telling me stories about things he and his friends do and other shows he enjoys. He listened attentively to tales of our family’s history, all the way back to Ellis Island. It amazes me still when he brings up a family story in the course of conversation and gives me one of his broad, beautiful smiles.
I have to admit to a bit of melancholy as the series winds down. I will miss watching the Winchesters fight to save the world, and I will miss their friends and foes as well. The brothers will live on in my heart, and I am forever grateful to the Boys and “Supernatural” for throwing me a rope that tied me even tighter to my son. The road so far has been fantastic. And for my son and me, the hunt will never end.