you don’t even have to listen too closely, don’t need to put your ear to the creaky old floorboards, or one of the doors. you can hear this house humming a mile away.
i swear it’s the truth.
i started humming mornings ago, way back on monday, when i leapt from the bed and started to scribble. racked my brain for all of his favorites, went out and got ‘em. drove the old wagon all over town like it was a tank and i was a captain, and we were off on a foraging mission. rustled up every last thing i could think of, straight down to a six-pack of gentlemen’s beer. called up my faraway brother, the one who cooks for a movie star, darn it, and jotted just as he told me. “knocks their socks off,” he said of the beefy rendition, all sesame and soy and ginger. sounds to me like food for a boy who is asking for meat. lots of it.
i had that boy’s room ready back before the workweek began. even scrubbed the seat of the toilet, for heaven’s sake. as if he would notice.
but a mama who feathers the nest, at least in this ol’ nest, is a mama who doesn’t know when to stop. not probably till someone calls out the time, round the middle of tomorrow afternoon, lets me know at long last, it’s time to go to the airport.
my firstborn is flying home from college tomorrow. did i remember to say that?
and, honeychil’, it’s a homecoming i’ve been imagining forever and ever.
years back, when the mere mention of children leaving for college sent me into a case of the shakes, i’d soothe myself by pushing the play button. i’d sit back in my mind and watch the frames of a film i played in my head, over and over. it was my kid coming home for the very first time.
it’s all very truman capote, the homecoming loop that plays in my brain. has hints of those old ‘70s TV specials, the hallmark hall of fame, when gloriously-shot family tales would air, and my mama and i, we’d sit with a box of kleenex between us, and let the tears roll.
they’re rollin’, all right.
last night i was bumping along on the rickety “el” train, chicago’s version of the subway, and there was chatter all over the train car, but i was alone in my reverie, imagining that moppy-haired kid, coming through the gate at the airport, feeling my heart leap from my chest, tears pouring, right there on the el car.
it’s been three months, and while 99-percent of my heart is somersaulting forward, there is a wee corner that’s holding back, that’s not utterly sure what this experiment in family reunion will hold.
might be he’ll be less inclined to open his heart in the way that he used to. might be he’ll hold back. might be he won’t like the gingery beef, or the book on his bed, the one i wrote and stitched together for him back when he was headed away, the one he asked me not to send to college, the one he hasn’t yet seen.
i’m old enough now to know that not everything is gauzy, no matter how deeply you want it to be.
and it’s been a lifetime, more or less, since i last laid eyes on his beautiful self. he’s been out on his own, very much so. in ways i cannot possibly know, but believe in, he’s way more of a man now, a thinking, exploring, do-it-myself sort of a man.
as happens whenever life turns a page, we have to find our place in the text. adjust to the new shadings. bend where we need to.
these are all the cautionary thoughts of a mama who’s just a little bit not so sure. not so sure if all these months apart and away might have moved me off to a new plot on his map. one farther from the middle.
but mostly i’m full-steam ahead. just minutes ago, i found myself washing a door jam. as if smudgy gray fingerprints would be something he noticed.
i’ve got shopping to do, still. and sheets to change on his bed. i’ve got a love note to write, to tuck under his pillow.
and all the while i’m humming. we all are.
i wonder if he is?
my dear chair friends, i couldn’t contain my thoughts on this homecoming, and so pounded out a straight-from-the-heart essay on the subject the other morning. the lovely editors at work deemed it newspaper ready, and it’ll run in the sunday paper (which comes out saturday morning, in what’s called the bulldog edition). it’s running in what’s called the perspective section. the place where mostly thinkers dial up thoughts, and pontificate. every once in a while they toss in a weeper. mine is the weeper. and once it lands in the paper, i’m allowed to link to it here. but i’ll also let rip the unedited version here. it’s always interesting to see the parts editors ditch. in my case it’s usually the parts with too much heart. they like to rein me in. which is, i’m certain, as it should be. but the joy of the chair is i needn’t hold back, and mostly i don’t. so this meander is really just hors d’oeuvres. come back for the full plating over the weekend. and thank you so much for following along, the glorious expansion of one mama’s heart as she attempts to send off her firstborn into the world.
do you have a sweet homecoming tale you’d like to tell??