Saturday, December 20, 2014

When They Come Home



It was a long three month stay away. My firstborn is home from his first semester at college and tonight, nothing can take away my smile. There's more dinner dishes in the sink and the washer is back to groaning again from use. The refrigerator door opened and closed enough times tonight that I thought we'd go burn through a light bulb.

My son is good, he looks healthy, happy, and comes alive when he talks of life on campus. I listen to his voice fill the kitchen and his laugh grips my heart hard enough to hurt.

Our family sits around him, asking their questions. His father asks him about classes, grades. I think how the week before, he wasn't here. The yogurt turns sour because he's not home to eat it. The orange juice goes tart and the bananas turn brown for the same reason. After three months, I still haven't learned how to shop for a household that doesn't have him in it.

It's been a good first semester away from home for him. School is one hundred percent what he dreamed it would be.

When he passes a mirror, he tells me he's been eating less starch, more protein, and how good this looks on him. I stop myself from saying how easy it is to look good when you're 19. He's solid, strong, and hugging him feels like you're encircling a tree. When I ask how he's sleeping, feeling, he says great. He adds, working hard, too, and meeting the coolest people. His mood is fantastic, and his eyes dance with the details of his days.

I had a hint once of what life like this would be like for the both of us. He had just begun school, still so little. When I picked him up after four hours, he was unstoppable as he bubbled over with news of projects, books, what the teacher said. His joy was palpable, but my uncensored reaction to realizing his life was now going to contain parts without me in it, struck me smack in the chest.

Time rushes past. It doesn't seem like we are part of the years we're in, but around us, are the souvenirs from along the way. I see the foot stool I painted green for him, the one he once needed to reach the sink. How is it that it still occupies this same corner? As if it's ever going back to its original purpose.

It's hard to not say, tell me everything.

I wait until we have time alone to ask him where he gets his hair cut, is there a really good pasta place close by, did it feel strange the first night he wasn't home?

Are your boots warm enough?

Do you use a buddy system when you go out? please say yes

Why don't I ever see pictures of you with a hat on? do you need another one?

If I know the small things, then I can see him clearly in the days he's not here, I can envision 9:01 or 2:50 or 11:09.

Things feel different. The duffel bag on the floor of his room reminds me whenever I walk past that this is a visit. Ponder that. Your child visiting.

I watch my son as he talks about the life he has now, the one that's his. I am amazed at how well I take it. I was always certain, I mean a million dollars bet certain, that when he left, I would have been lost. I pictured myself walking in circles, befuddled, needing to learn the new way to live with one of my children gone. Instead, I find myself thrilled for him, relieved that he's adapted, grateful that he is happy. I feel all of these things at the same time as the lump in my throat.

He's home, but not in the same way as he was home his first 18 years, and yet, I am OK. I marvel at the power of love, so strong for someone else that it can override what I should be feeling now, what I thought I would be -- an ache of the heart.
 
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25 comments:

  1. I am always crazy happy when you write deep-from-the heart. Oh, the yogurt that doesn't get eaten...that footstool in the bathroom...that duffel bag...and your tremendous ability to realize, despite your heart, that he's exactly where he needs to be.

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    1. Jocelyn, have I told you how grateful I am that we've met? I know I have, but I have to say it again and again. I'm happy to know you. xo

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  2. Save that green stool for the grandchildren that will come along, eventually!

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    1. I want to, but it breaks my heart every time I look at it!!

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  3. It's hard to know what to say to him without saying, tell me everything. I try to not ask too many rapid-fire questions. I will wait until we have time alone to ask how he is, not so much about classes and school and if he felt he aced his papers. I want to know where he gets his hair cut, is there a really good pasta place close by, did it feel strange the first night he wasn't home?

    Are his boots warm enough?

    Does he use a buddy system when he goes out?

    Why don't I ever see pictures of him with his hat?

    ----YES! I so relate to this beautifully expressed love.

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    1. We make them into our little kids so many times, and we have to remind ourselves, they're adults now. Just as we were at that age. How it changes everything about how I remember my mother now.

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  4. Our son, a sophmore, is also home for the holidays. You hit the range of emotioms. That emerge when one comes home perfectly.

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    1. Thank you, Meg. It's so true, isn't it? We are thrilled for them, but how my heart pangs for the little boy days once more.

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  5. My fourth is about to leave the nest and the feelings never change. Beautifully written. Also, as written above, save the step stool for the grand kids. :)

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    1. Michelle, will they all be gone then? I still have two more at home, but I know that won't last long.

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  6. I made it all the way through without crying...almost. As much as I know how difficult this will all feel for us here next year, I am also thrilled at the thought of our son finding his own new happy as well. Hooray for your boy and his new adventure. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. It is a new adventure for them. We are there, like a strong undercurrent that keeps things flowing. But how we miss them in those months is between visits! Thanks for being here for me, Andrea. xo

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  7. Oh, Alexandra. I remember my grandmother expressing the exact same thing about kindergarten when my dad (her first-born) went to school: "It was the first time I wouldn't know everything about his day." And I felt it, too. (Cried as I drove away after dropping them off there.) But, yes. We adjust. There is so much now that I don't know about their days, and it is OK. I can't tell you how much it comforts me to know that even you (who I think of as one of the fiercest, most motherly of mothers I know) is finding the transition to college OK. Because in two years they will be coming home from their first term at college to visit me, and any time I let myself stop and really, deeply see that...well. I rarely do. I am so happy for you that you have him back home for a bit now.

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    1. That is IT. I remember the sting, of realizing, he was going to have moments that didn't include me. I was part of everything for him, we shared it all, for so long. xo

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  8. I didn't fare so well without the leaky eyes. You got me with, " I listen to his voice fill the kitchen and his laugh grips my heart hard enough to hurt". Then my heart grew warm with, "His mood is fantastic, and his eyes dance with the details of his days." And most of it just brought a sweet smile to my face (as what Maggie quoted above). Love you my friend - you are the best kind of mom out there.

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  9. It took me far too long to read this as I felt like I needed windshield wipers to see the words. Oh my heart. My son got home last night. I don't even realize how much I miss him until he walks through the front door with that stunning smile. Enjoy your time with your sweet boy.

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  10. My son (only child) is coming home soon, and you put my feelings about it in words that were beautifully written and touching to read.

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    1. He's coming home! Is there anything more wonderful than that!!!!

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  11. This post makes me so very happy and so very sad at the same time. It is bittersweet- this letting them go. I am very glad he's doing well and so happy that you get a few weeks with a house full again.

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    1. I'll be here to read your words, Shannon. xo

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  12. Oh, Alexandra... this is so incredibly beautiful. i am so happy for you, for your son... and that you are both soaking in your time together. I can't begin to imagine the many waves of emotions that must be flooding in and out.

    "I find myself thrilled for him, relieved that he's adapted, grateful that he is happy. I feel all of these things at the same time as a lump in my throat."

    Do you realize how very lucky your son is to have such a sweet, doting, amazing, caring mother? One who wants to know he has enough hats and that he's loving and living life to its fullest?

    XOXO and happy holidays to you all!

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    1. My friend, Charlotte. Thank you. xo

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  13. I just can't. I've tried to read it twice, but I skim with watery eyes.

    I just can't.

    I feel a panicked drive to swallow every day whole so I never feel hungry for memories after they go.

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