After writing the last post, I felt like something of a fraud. Because it turned out to be a really good day for my son and me, with good, open conversation, humor, lightness of spirit and of heart. I had taken the day off from work and we did simple things. We watched TV, he drove us to Costco so he could shop for back to school supplies, and last night six of us went out to dinner as a family for my daughter's 16th birthday, which isn't for another week, but they'll all be gone back to school then. By "all" I mean my son, my niece and E., my son's best friend since they were babies, who lives in the building next door. My son and niece head back to college tomorrow, E. heads back to boarding school. He is a year younger than my son, and has recently been accepted at his first choice college, which is in Chicago, so he is now in the cruise control period of senior year, and he's happy.
Dinner wasn't so wonderful though. My daughter was moody because a boy at her school, whom she likes but said no to when he asked her to be his girlfriend, stopped talking to her. She's confused. She thought they were friends. I remember this so well. I remember when I was her age a boy I liked asked me to be his girlfriend and I said no, because I was trying to keep things in a lane that I could manage, and I knew he wanted to have sex, and I wasn't ready. That boy stopped talking to me, too. I now understand that he was trying to manage his ego, which is probably what the boy at my daughter's school is trying to do, too. But it still stings. My niece, the college sophomore, told her not to worry, this kind of behavior was coded into boys' DNA. Her cousin promised that the male of the species gets a little better with age, though not much.
Then, just before dinner, my other niece, the one who now lives and works in the city, had a huge yelling phone fight with her roommate over a carton of ice cream. My niece was entertaining old college friends this week, and her roommate was conveniently out of town. There was ice cream in the freezer, and my niece served to her friends, intending to replace it before her roommate got back. But her roommate came home two days early, and sent my niece a text saying, "I had ice cream in the freezer. Where is it?" My niece was at our house, waiting to go out to dinner with us all when the text came in. She was pissed, because other things, bill paying things, had been simmering under the surface of their relationship.
She called her roommate and explained that she had served the ice cream to her friends, but had planned to replace it. I don't know what her roommate said, but from there things went a little ballistic. My husband and I sat in the living room and listened to the yelling coming from the back bedroom. My daughter and my other niece were in the bathroom playing with makeup and pretending not to listen. It wasn't good. My older niece was literally shaking with fury after, and didn't want to go out to dinner anymore. She just wanted to go home and plunk down that carton of ice cream and tell her roommate that from here on out, they would buy and use everything separately. She planned to declare that there would be no more sharing of anything other than living room furniture and dishwashing liquid.
Truth is, the her agitation unsettled me and brought me down quite a bit. I'm so darned impressionable. I drink in whatever mood is around me. I have no boundaries. Eventually, my niece decided not to come to dinner. She said she knew she wouldn't be able to contain what she was feeling (in her position, I wouldn't be able to either). But I never really did recover the lighthearted spirit from the afternoon with my son. I was playacting the whole time, wishing for a perfect moment for my daughter, wishing I knew what to do to create it.
Anyway, it's a new morning. The sun is bright outside my window. In the playground downstairs, children are zooming around noisily. My daughter and her cousin just left to go shopping together at Forever 21, their ritual. My husband and the boys are watching March Madness college basketball in the living room. My niece texted me that things are a little better between her and her roommate. And I am meeting my friend for lunch.
Every day we begin anew.