Coming Home

college student coming home for holiday

How do you feel, when you walk through that door…

Home for a quick visit; a week at best.

Dropping your heavy duffel bag onto the floor while the dog slathers you with welcome back kisses.

Same old home, same familiar spaces where you’ve spent most of your young life.

But maybe a bit foreign to you now.

Does it feel like home, like a place you’ve never left in your heart?

Or just a vaguely familiar memory?

When you walk down the hallway to your bedroom, do you see the little boy there, picking up jelly beans that the Easter Bunny left in a trail?

I do.

And in your room, your big boy room at the front of the house…

See that small boy standing at the window, waiting for the garbage truck?

He’s still there.

This empty room is still filled with him, everywhere I look.

And then, when you are here in the flesh – all over-six-feet of you with stubbly beard and deep voice – the room fills again but the memories are new.

No tucking-you-in at bedtime; no rushing to the window to greet the garbage man.

Do you still feel at home?

Or too anxious to get back to your new life?

With each visit home, you take a step further away.

That was the plan all along…

Simple words cannot express the pride I feel, watching you grow into a young adult.

But my heart misses that little boy sometimes…

 

Tell Me a Story

His voice surprises me every Sunday evening.

Sundays are for phone calls home. Time to talk about midterms and dorm food; to tease his sister a bit and catch us up on his life away from home.

It’s the only time each week I hear his voice now. It’s strong and deep.

The voice of a young man.

That very same voice that I remember hearing incessantly, ever since he found the usefulness of language and started to babble.

He told vivid stories, long and detailed…about dinosaurs or Bionicle characters or knights in shining armor. And in that long part of the afternoon, when dinner is looming too far away and naps are finished, he would tell his tales.

On car rides to grandparent’s houses, or just a trip to the neighborhood store. The stories, they flowed.

Once his sister was born, he had a new audience. She listened and watched and smiled.

And he went on and on.

I know I tuned out quite a bit; continued to shake my head and nod, throwing in a few “uh-huhs” for good mom points.

He was creating worlds that made him happy, that made even the worst day at school seem easy to handle.

I just couldn’t imagine a time when the stories would end.

Or turn into grown up stories.

Of paying bills and managing laundry; scheduling classes and planning for his degree.

These once-a-week stories from a young man’s voice have nothing to do with pirates or knights; and yet they are magical.

He’s building his own world, one independent step at a time. Chasing a dream, following a passion, developing a future for himself. Something to call his own.

And crafting his tale one Sunday night phone call at a time.

And just maybe, those stories he told for hours on end helped him get where he is today.

I’m glad I listened.

At least half the time.

The Long Goodbye

I think I’m still adjusting to it, to be honest with you.

That empty bedroom down the hall.

When my son came home from college for Thanksgiving, it was magical. He had only three days to visit, so we crammed in all the laughing, chatting, eating, and hanging out that we could muster in that short period of time. It was his first visit home since he went away to college in September and he seemed genuinely happy to be here.

To sit and watch him pester his sister, play with the dog, and stretch his lanky frame out across my couch again?

Pure awesome.

Christmas break was a whole month long…at least a week too long, we all decided. After the first week or so we had all settled into old routines for the most part. Almost as if he’d never left.

His floor was once again littered with socks, more of his friends were home to make plans with, and we were suddenly back in the business of parenting: curfews, chores, do-this, do-that, get a haircut, clean your room.

When he finally went back to school in early January, it was time.

And yet…

I found myself tip-toeing past his closed bedroom door, still thinking he was in bed and sleeping late. Buying his favorite snacks at the grocery store, only to remember that he won’t be home until April. Setting aside the Sunday comics for him when I brought in the newspaper.

Old routines; familiar little mothering stuff that only a mom understands.

Little mothering stuff that I can’t do for him anymore.

I sat in his room for a bit yesterday, after I had remade his bed with clean sheets in anticipation of his next visit.

This big boy room that we moved him to when his sister’s birth was imminent. The big boy bed he slept in straight from the crib. Awards hanging on the wall, movie ticket stubs taped together in a long strip on the mirror, silly photo booth pictures from Senior Ball stuck to the mirror.

The memories in this room are piled 16 years deep; and yet they are right on the surface of my heart.

He smiles back at me from the Senior Ball picture; or at least I think he does.

And I know he’s exactly where he needs to be right now.

But there’s a hole in that empty bedroom down the hall.

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It’s Wednesday, and that means I’m also hanging out over at Moonfrye! Today I’m coming clean about how I almost lost it all last week but nobody was the wiser. Or at least, that’s how I remember it. Come visit me over there…I promise I won’t make you do any chores.