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??
I hope your time with your firstborn son is all that you hope it is, BAM. Of course, you both have changed over the months. I’m betting, though, that nothing has changed that much! I’d like to wish you, your family, and all who gather here a most wonderful Thanksgiving week and day! I’ve been very occupied with selling my house, packing, getting ready to move, so I haven’t been commenting much. But I’ve been reading and taking in all the love that is shared at this table. Much joy to everyone!
all the cleaning is a comment on love, an action to affirm, and so, yes, do wipe that door handle and scrub hard that toilet seat. i was thinking today how the first thanksgiving return home burns deep in the memory. for good or bad it lasts in our memory (or mine at least) not indifferent but burrowed deep in the psyche. your writing has balance – the unknown of how he will feel, speak, respond – but the rush of your love is like a mortar that holds fast your connection. trust that. he always will. (and happy that i could lend a recipe idea for the dinner table. will be curious how long the leftovers last, as if!)
from a new mama, I have to confess, that I can barely be upstairs and let my little girl’s grandmother watch her downstairs for a few hours so I can put some laundry away and get a few household tasks done. As my husband and I strolled through the crowded aisles of the grocery store today, he asked if he could be the one that pushed the cart, so he could have a front-row seat to our little one in the cart. He had to plead with me, before I uncurled m y hands and watched her from the sidelines. What a gift it is, that your hands have uncurled, and have been open enough to both wave goodbye this fall to your son and full of grace to receive him in his homecoming.I will cherish these days where, I don’t have to say goodbye that often to my little one, and I will turn to you and others to offer wisdom of how to live each day towards the future when my little one will share her gifts with the world
Hooray! Huzzah! I’m so elated for you I’m practically reliving my first Thanksgiving return home. I can still feel that homesickness peeling away as our plane descended over the nighttime illuminated desert that was my home. Have a wonderful week living in thankfulenss.
oh goodness, thank heaven the comment button is letting me back on (it is finicky, isn’t it??) so much love up over my head here…..JACK lovely to see you again. lovely to know you waft over us, wordlessly sometimes, but still very here. david, bless you times a thousand. for putting your words here. for talking me through homecoming feasts. for being uncle david. and slj, i love the counterpoint you offer as you behold these fresh new days, and i recall them all so vividly. simply cannot wrap my head around the time warp that overnight seems to have propelled me from being the one in the produce aisle, with the newborn, who didn’t know how i was going to reach for the apples AND keep the baby safe, and here i am, hours away from marching into o’hare to claim my firstborn. and jules, your poetry about the night desert, as you flew in, flew home. i keep hearing — and i know in my own life — how that FIRST coming home for thanksgiving is so often forever seared in our minds and our hearts. bless you all, what a gathering. i am so thankful. xoxo
Yay, yay and YAY!! Talk about a thankful Thanksgiving! The dinner table will be full in so many ways … enjoy every morsel.Happy Thanksgiving and blessings to all!
my definition of heaven: all my boys asleep in their beds, the sound of breathing coming from the one that’s too long been empty. the house is whole again. a gray autumn morn, when it feels like the angels and saints have tossed down a blanket. the birds fluttering in and out of the feeder, the bushy-tailed squirrels gathering scraps. cinnamon, clove and orange peel simmering on the stove. the table already set with newspapers and a pitcher of honeycrisp cider. bagels coming once everyone stirs. if this is church, i am in the very front row.
Cleaned up our version here too, on Wednesday night. It felt good to be doing for the baby boy. We were at O’Hare on Friday night and it was just good to get/give that bear hug and see the freckles and grin. I let him have the front seat next to dad. Now we have a whole week and the best part….he’ll be back in jiffy. I know the feeling of the beds filled and the quiet. I remember it when the first born came back for her first return visit at Thanksgiving….and we gave thanks. She is off in her own apartment, we are planning a wedding, and trying to figure out how to rearrange all our holiday traditions. It doesn’t seem to stop, these leave takings and changes. Yet, the airport embrace is a moment to rest in and so I will. Thanks as always for the prompt to stop and just be in the moment. You write it up beautifully.
Loved your article and the timing was perfect. Tonight night my son, my one and only, will arrive home. His first trip home since leaving for college out east late August. Yes it’s been quiet here and the empty nest is easier, but I yearn to hug this tall young man and see him sleeping all askew in a bed messy with too many comforters. This year we are hosting Thanksgiving and I anticipate a memorable holiday full of many blessings. Thank you for writing this article. It truly touched my aching mom’s heart anticipating the homecoming tonight.
I’m heading up north tomorrow to fetch my freshman young man and my sophomore young woman from the same wonderful small college they both attend. It’s close enough that we’ve seen them several times since school began…we went up for parents weekend, they came home for my golden birthday, we went up for Sarah’s 20th bday. The thing I am most eagerly anticipating is the chatter. Chatter about nothing and everything. Chatter on the carride home and chatter at the dining room table as we all pull up a chair to the same table.
chatter is a beautiful thing….and lo, as i look at the photo of the empty bed, i am once again struck. just minutes ago i was looking at a picture i took of that bed with the boy back in it, and his little brother standing over him, unable to tear himself away to get into his own bed. this week i am so very filled up. it is hard to remember how empty it felt all those long weeks and months he was away, but glancing back at the empty picture above, i remember it. how do we manage to carry on? such a mysterious element, time. it shrinks and stretches, morphs and twists. and we learn to take it in bits, absorbing what it brings us. i haven’t managed to get the tribune essay up here yet. so sorry. might get it up tomorrow. as part of the day’s getting ready for feasting.
Oh, I know that’s how my little boy will be next year, unable to tear himself away from his big bro. It’s already like that some nights. (We just returned from 2 days at a college audition, and after little bro played the piano for an hour in joy and a little showmanship, then shared the weekend’s books, we needed a crowbar to pry him out of his brother’s room and into his own bed.) Will Sunday night be that much harder, the leavetaking after a week of reunited bliss? But a longer break is coming in only a few short weeks!
Full houses, full beds, full plates and full hearts … much to be thankful for this season.
‘nother barb: yup. every once in a while (it’s only wednesday) a wobble of a thought about sunday will quiver through my belly, and i will get weak kneed at the thought. here we go again, i think. but, yes, knowing now how very happy he is, and how very much he is still my sweet hilarious boy who sits up till wee hours with me (last night i heard him come in around 2 and i got up and we talked till 3. be still my heart…..), it will be a little easier, maybe. and in three weeks, he’ll be back. but i do know deep in my heart that he’s now living in an orbit beyond my reach in many ways. it is his world, and i only get to taste what he shares with me. also, after my essay ran in la tribune, i heard from dozens and dozens of mothers AND fathers who told me the ache only gets bigger the more years they are away……hoh boy. give us strength…..pjv, MUCH to be thankful for, sweetie. and that bundle coming your way. OH MY!!!!!!!! countdown begins now…….we are in the 2-week window, non???? xox
Yes, down to the wire … awaiting the magical phone call then it’s the mad dash to get there before he does! I cannot wait.