Then he’ll walk over to my booth, rest his hands on the table and before he can say a word he’ll take one look at me and know it’s too late: the doors of my life have swung wide open, and there’s nothing he can do to kick them closed. p 137 from the short story, “Duck and Cover”
It feels like it wasn’t so long ago since I graduated high school and walked through my own doors. Now here we are spending our Tuesdays touring schools and wondering where T will be headed next fall. Each one sparkles with promise and possibility. As we pull up to the gates or try to find the Visitor parking lot I start to wonder if this is the place we’ll be visiting for the next four years, I start to imagine myself sitting in the library waiting for T to finish up classes so we can go to lunch. Not that I would see him very often but occasionally it would be a treat, hopefully for both of us. He can catch me up on college life and I’ll bring him up to date on our sleepy lives at home. Though M has threatened that once T is gone we’ll become the couple that is always hosting a get–together on the weekends. T grins when he hears this response, as he knows we are more likely to hunker down with a book and a cup of tea or an ice filled glass of something cool. Quite possibly there would be snacks.
So far we have toured a school that has their own island, one that offers a chance for a semester at Oxford and a school that could allow access to facilities to build your own plane. I don’t remember having such incredible opportunities in college, but then again I only applied to one school. T is amazed at this fact. “Different times” is my standard reply.
I do think some of our time will be spent getting together with friends after T heads off, but I’m planning some adventures as well. Recently I met with a friend so that I could help her with a presentation she would be giving at a library conference. Afterwards we talked a bit about her boys and what they were up to now that they had graduated and were starting to make their way in the great big world. She told me that this would be an extraordinary time for me, or maybe there would be time to do extraordinary things. Either way I could sense the power behind her words, as if they gave me permission to strike out on my own and do what I wanted to do. Not that parenthood, motherhood or my job have been stifling or left me trapped–but I’m ready to let go of some of the old to welcome in the new. I no longer need to know the route to the NJ hospital or which brand of diapers is the most absorbent. I don’t have to think about sippy cups or trying to shop for boy’s shirts without sports or dinosaurs plastered on them. Maybe that will free up some parts of my brain for other things. If only I could clean it out like a closet, I’d take all those boxes and bags to the curb and sweep the place till it shone. That’s where I’ll put all my thoughts about writing and reading and the plans M and I have for our day off together. Maybe something as wild and crazy as holding hands while we watch a movie.
We’ve been testing the waters of a two person household recently. T has already been away for a few weeks this summer and he’ll head back to circus camp in a few weeks. Each time I feel anxious, at first, but then the mood lessens. It feels a little like playing house. Having only two people at home reminds me of how it used to be when M and I were first starting out as a couple, decades ago when our relationship was tender and fragile. And here we are twenty years later, it’s as if everything has happened and in some ways nothing at all. I know that these next few months are going to be the hardest part of parenting: getting T ready to go and holding him so tight he I crush him with my embrace–but right now we’re taking it one day at a time He’s ready to see more of the world outside our little part of Vermont, I think he’s been ready for awhile now.
But I am making the most of my boy’s time at home. I’m soaking him up like the fleeting summer sun. I grab him as he’s passing me in the kitchen. I hug him, or if we’re on the stairs I give his forehead a quick kiss. This is what I will miss– the nearness of him. I’m trying not to take our mornings together for granted, I love driving into work with him in the mornings singing along with the radio. This summer has been golden, perhaps it’s a respite before the crazy, stress-inducing fall arrives. Though we’re trying not to be over-anxious before it’s really necessary. I feel incredibly fortunate that both M and I can devote a portion of this year to helping T find a good fit for college. Some of our friends have younger children who also need their attention, and I guess in some ways we’re lucky to have only one child…. I tell people it’s like we have this stool it’s got three legs and its sturdy. But now it will only have two legs, it’ll be a little wobbly at first and I’m not sure that I trust it just yet.
Maybe we’re all ready to kick open the doors, maybe some days you wake up and feel like it’s your mission. But there are times in a life that are inherently recognized as life changing, forks in the road that require decisions and right now we’re on the cusp of whatever it is that’s going to come next.