dispatch from 02139 (in which we’ve returned “home” from our swoop down the eastern seaboard — a grand thanksgiving repast in new york city, in the brownstone at 94th and lex we have come to know and love for its grace (and wild rice salad, and indian corn pudding, and oven-browned brussels sprouts), followed by a zip through the lincoln tunnel to one fair haven, and my tall fellow’s ancestral home, the 1789 gardener’s cottage where, to this day, his heart ticks at its fullest, its soundest)…
i should have mastered this. should have figured this out. should have, should have, should have.
but i haven’t.
not when it comes to saying goodbye, not when the goodbye is to my firstborn, grand thump in my heart, big brother to the little guy, the one who’s been away, off at college for nearly three whole semesters now.
you’d think i could get through it without the preamble rumble down in my belly, without the pounding in my heart, without the tears welling and spilling.
but i haven’t.
each time, i swear, it feels like someone is unplugging a cord that keeps my glow up and glowing. that has something to do with how i breathe. that puts the purr in my heart.
each time, in the hours before, as i start to feel the yanking, the turning and twisting of parts deep inside, as i start to picture the hours and days ahead without him, without the unspooling of conversation that comes, unexpected, as i chop in the kitchen, as i fold laundry, as i tie my shoes and head out for a stroll, i start to see the color draining away.
i start to feel empty all over again.
i think back to the days of villages, when a mother and son would never be farther than a few cottages away, down behind a waist-high stone wall, through an arched timbered doorway, in a room where embers on the hearth burned orange, persimmon and red.
i wonder why, nowadays, mothers and children need live miles and miles, whole ZIP codes, away.
oh, of course, i settle back into my rhythms. get used to plowing through the day without the flash of his million-watt smile. without dinners fueled by his stories. (fact is, i don’t mind, not one little bit, seeing his bunk smooth and unrumpled. don’t miss the volcano of clothes he spills on the bedroom floor.)
we left the boy back in new york city. he’s a man now. my last glimpse of him was under a streetlight at the corner of 94th and lexington avenue. he filled out his shetland sweater, his chest now strikingly, breathtakingly, the shape and size and velocity of my own papa’s. a chest i always loved. a chest that made me feel safe against the world. and now that chest belongs to my son, my sweet boy, my strapping 6-foot-3 chunk of a man.
as i stepped back from his hug, from his long arms, broad shoulders, soft hands, i felt the pull like stretching of dough. i, into the distance. he, into the thick of his life. a whole weekend before him, a weekend with his beloved cousin and aunt, a weekend romping through the best of new york, a new york i’ll never see.
fact is, it’s his life he lives now. whole chapters and verse distant to me. unknown. uncharted.
as it should be. as it’s meant to be.
but that does not make the parting of mother and child one drop easier. not for this mother anyway.
it’s not that i want him tucked by my side. God, no. this is why and how i’ve raised him — to spread his arms wide as wide can be, to wrap in as much and as deep as he can, and then to soar high.
it’s just that along with that soaring comes the fact that mama bird’s back in the nest, or up on some other limb, watching the sky, watching the loop-de-loops. wings on alert, ready to spread, to enfold, in case there’s a fall, a need to harbor, to shelter again.
and that airspace between mother and child, that life space, it just seems to take — every time — getting used to.
i always think, i’ve never my fill of him. never enough of his stories. never enough of his heart. never ever enough.
and then, not long after i’d swallowed my goodbyes, i watched my own tall fellow, the one i married, say goodbye to his mama, down in fair haven, on the jersey shore. and i wondered if she too always feels it. that it’s never enough. that one more breakfast together. one more walk to the river. one more, one more, would finally fill the hole.
but truth is, i think it’s a hole that will never be filled. it’s a wanting that goes un-sated.
it’s a yearning, a hunger, a please-come-back that lies at the heart of deep love. most especially, at the heart and soul of mother love.
who in your life do you never ever get enough of?
photo way above is my boys, big and little, plotting their flag-football moves in a game against the cousins, played on the lot behind the tall fence at hunter college on new york’s upper east side. i can’t get enough of watching the two of them entwine the whole of their lives….
photo below is my firstborn at his ebullient best.
happy blessed season of thanks, and beginning of advent, the season of waiting…..and now i am off to a long day of writing….classes wrap up in the next couple weeks. where did that first semester go???