All Summer in a Day

It’s funny that when you’ve waited long for something and it finally arrives, time slows to a crawl.  It’s there, right on your doorstep but not quite ready to enter because it’s not quite time.  I’m not the only one affected by this because I can hear my son in his room next door not doing much of anything.  Yet again, checking the insistent tone in my voice, I’ve had to tell him that he needs to pick up his room.  That I do not want to be left after we’ve dropped him off at school to come back home and see what’s left of his teenaged boyness strewn around the floor and on every surface, forcing me to acknowledge for the thousandth time how fast time passes.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was suspicious that I had plans for his room in his absence.  Plans like, ridding our house of all evidence of his having inhabited the space for nearly a decade and putting up ruffled curtains, or painting it pink.

I’m sitting here instead of forcing things to move along more quickly in the day, but it’s conditioned response.  My reasonably gentle prodding requires being within earshot of him to make sure he’s doing what he needs to do to get ready.  It takes more time in the long run, but it’s good for me on the patience practicing front, and it’s good for him because let’s face it:  he’ll be doing all of it on his own after tomorrow without the up close and personal variety of  insistent prodding or reminders.  They’ll be relegated to email and Skype instead.

Have you washed your hair?  Done your laundry?  How are your classes?  Is your roommate a nice guy?  Are you brushing your teeth, flossing your teeth, staying on top of your organization?

The contents of his day-to-day existence have steadily begun to fill my office —  stacks of jeans, shorts, and tee shirts lining up against the bookcases.  We stand looking at them as if they were something remarkable.

Me:  Are three pair of jeans enough?

Him:  I probably need a couple more.

Me:  (holding up a dingy yellow tee) This one’s seen better days.  If it’s a favorite, leave it here, otherwise, throw it in the discard pile.

Him:  What’s wrong with it?

And then another laundry lesson begins about light colors being separated from dark when the weekly wash is completed.  He’s been doing his laundry for a couple of years now, but I have to make sure, telling him something he knows already.

Economy sized bottle of detergent.  Check. Even larger economy sized toilet paper package.  Check. Body wash, shaving cream, toothpaste, dental floss…check.  I wandered through the book section at Target last week after sending him off to get his personal supplies, the image a doting mother leading her 18-year-old son around to choose his deodorant not appealing to me even though I know he wouldn’t mind.

The sounds of hustle bustle next door have stopped again and a quick look around me reveals a few more items lying in wait– guitar, art supplies, a few of his favorite books — but I can tell he’s once again parked in front of his computer.  The computer that’s staying here.  The new laptop arrives today, just in time to be experimented with and the Wacom tablet hooked up to make sure everything works.  Are 24 hours really enough for a day like this?

It’s 10am and things are finally going into the soft duffle bag with rollers we purchased a few years ago with this very moment in mind.  Thankfully, there’s a second for the bits of this and that he’ll need — things that feel semi-familiar.

Will you have your own desk?  Is there a lamp?  Are there hangers in the closet? I’ve asked all these questions before and have been patiently told, yes.  Yes, they’re all there.  But what about something for your desk?  Something to keep pencils in, or folders for important papers? He and the MoH were there on a dorm tour recently, so I’ve been assured that everything is just fine.  But no mini fridges, no microwaves, and no used furniture is allowed.  And definitely no pets, which is sad for Lizzie who clearly loves him more than anyone else here.  He’s had to push her aside more than once as he filled the large duffle bag, trying to keep her out of it.  For now, she’s content to make a nest on the clothes he’s put aside to wear tomorrow,  her paws kneading the worn fleece before settling down to bathe, confirming that he’ll have cat hair on his clothes when he leaves just like any other day.

By this time tomorrow, we will have dropped him off at his dorm and helped him carry everything to his room.  If we’re lucky, we’ll get to meet his roommate, but I’ve been told he thinks he can handle making his bed himself.  Of course this is something I’ve always known, but he’s yet to make his bed once in his life, so the experience should be interesting.  Bear in mind I’ve not made his bed many times, either, but I can think of many things I’d rather do than to make up a bunk bed.  I wonder if he’ll have the top bunk or the bottom?

He’s semi-packed now and in the shower.  We’re off to get his bi-annual haircut, pick up some new earphones and maybe assemble a junkfood stash for his dorm.  It would be perfect to be able to put him in my car so he could take care of these last minute things himself, leaving me to fuss over the details, but after all the hassle of getting his driving permit, lessons, practice, and a last second driver’s test, he doesn’t like driving.   Go figure.  At least he’ll have some ID, right?

I wonder how he’ll feel about being in a big city away from just about everything he’s always known and depended upon?

Oh, my.

Empty Nest Syndrome

It’s been just more than a month since I finished my year’s obligation  and I’ve busied myself with all sorts of things I wouldn’t exactly describe as constructive.  The weather here has been far less than summery, with the only warm day arriving today when within sight of the Pacific we’ve actually mustered up an admirable 82 degrees.  With an almost non-existent summer, I can only say that constructiveness must be connected to the things I expect at any given time during the year.  A matter of rote.  Habit.

Better said, I’ve been spending my time processing the fact that I not longer work doing something I’ve done for more than 20 years, but this time for good.  I’ve also been processing that after mothering three boys, my youngest is headed off to school, leaving the MoH and I with a seriously empty nest.  I think that, more than anything, with all of its unknowns, has caught us completely by surprise.

It’s a bit of a choking sensation for me, felt when I least expect it.  It overwhelms me with its intensity, and I unrealistically imagine bears and woods, sinking boats, and other disasters I can’t help my son from.  How ridiculous is that?  Seriously.

But we still need to find our corners occasionally to weep silently in the middle of an unrelated conversation until one of us notices that the other has stopped his or her side of the conversation.  And then one of us knows.  We know that the empty nest syndrome has enveloped one of us and so the other quietly excuses him or herself to allow the sorrow to pass.

What the hell.

This should be a time of celebration.  It should be a time for looking forward to all that lies ahead.  The future.  Opportunity.  Yadda yadda yadda.

I try.  Honestly, I do.  And it works most of the time on most days.

I busy myself with planning a trip to the UK in the fall.  As someone who lived her professional life married to a school calendar, trust me.  I want to travel in the fall when everyone else is at work or in school.   It’s just that one moment on that one day on that one afternoon.  All it takes is a look, and then I’m toast.

We’ve purchased bedding for his dorm room.  We’ve paid for the housing and food.  We’ve reviewed books and supply lists and have made plans to purchase them here then drive them up.  But time is dwindling.  More than 30 years raising boys.  More than 20 years teaching other people’s children.

It will take a bit of time to adjust.