The photograph above was taken by my son's roommate, whose family lives just outside of the town where they attend college, and in whose home my son has been a welcome guest during the school year. I appreciate this family folding my son in. They are lovely people, who opened their doors to us, too, inviting us to dinner while we were in town to pack up our son and our niece from their sophomore and junior years respectively. My son's friend's mother told me at one point how similar our boys are, separated at birth, she joked, and then she said with sincerity, "I cannot tell you how much we have come to love this kid." I was so touched. And just a teeny bit jealous because they get to see his life during his long months away from us. Indeed his Facebook status on the day after he completed his sophomore years was, "What a great start to the summer. Slept for hours on Brian's couch. Woke up to find the dogs staring me in the face."
Apparently, he has formed a special relationship with the family's two dogs. There was much joking about how much they were going to miss him over the summer, and would he promise to Skype. Growing up, my children always begged for a dog, but never managed to convince us that a small New York City apartment already crammed with four people and numerous family members coming through was a good place to raise an animal. My husband and I both grew up with dogs, and they had the free rein of a yard. Confining them in an apartment didn't appeal to either of us. But watching my son with his friend's dogs, I couldn't help wondering if he might have been less stressed as a child, if his personality structure would have been wired a little looser had he been able to play as he does with those two dogs.
My son is somewhat irritable with me, as if he would rather be back at school, not having to deal with his mother and her unspoken wishes and demands. This is a trying-not-to-cry post, and I realize there is always the possibility that I am wrestling with internal chemistry and not reality. Still. We arrived in town and our son grudgingly left his friends to come and greet us, and then went right back to wherever the party was happening. I did understand. I remembered when my parents would come to town when I was in college. It felt like I was leaving my real life behind, stepping out of the flow of it to go and spend time with them at my Aunt Winnie's house. I couldn't wait to get back to my friends, to whatever aimless scene we might have been involved in. That was where the real connection lay, the real surge of electricity that made me feel alive. I wanted our son to pretend to be a little happier to see us, though. I felt a little hurt by his can't-wait-to-be-away-from-here demeanor at dinner the first night.
We took all the college kids to a very nice Tuscan restaurant in town. I could see our son was itching to be done with the parental obligation so he could get back to the real proceedings. I know. I get it. Really, I just wanted him to be in the moment, to be with us while he was with us. As my niece was, and as his best friend from high school who goes to college in the same town also managed to be. I guess what worried me more is he seemed to be brooding about something. Or maybe we're just too similar. His dad does a much better job of letting him be. He doesn't take in his prickly moments. He takes him as he is. I am trying to do the same.
I missed all of the packing and storing of belongings because my husband covered that front, making multiple trips back and forth to the storage locker while my daughter and I were doing a college tour. The morning we left to drive back to New York, my son's mood lightened a bit. It was as if he was now ready to reenter the family unit, to reconnect. We stopped to got road trip supplies first.
Then we piled into our jeep that was stuffed to the gills with student paraphernalia. Our son drove while the girls watched a movie on my niece's laptop.
After the movie my niece went to sleep and my daughter turned to assigned homework, having missed two days of school. I looked across at one point and saw she had made a big "Holy Shit!" note in the margin of the play she was reading, Ruined by Lynn Nottage. (That is for Ms. Moon, who worried about teenage girls reading profane language on her blog. Put your heart at rest, Ms. Moon.) Once home, my son and my niece immediately took up their just-back-from-college positions on the couches while my daughter and I watched the taped finale of Survivor before she turned to homework in earnest.
It is good to see their familiar sprawl across the furniture. It is good to close my door at night and know that all my babies are inside and safe. Never mind the moodiness of this post. This is my life and no matter how it ebbs and flows, no matter how my brain and heart chemistry can wreck the moments, all of it is pretty damn splendid. Yes, there is a fist in my chest sometimes. But even then I am filled with so much love for these people I think I might burst. Welcome home, my loves.