Today, I put my son on a train back to school, and Friday, I put my daughter on a train back to her home in New York. For a long time, I could never imagine my house without my kids. When my daughter went to college, I remember saying to my husband about our house minus one, "This is not the way it's supposed to be." We were a family of four, and one was someplace else. It just wasn't right.
When my son went to college last fall, I didn't expect it to feel better. And it didn't. We were a family of four, and now we were down to two. We were the incredible shrinking family, and while I realized that we all were going to be fine, that it was the necessary chain of events, that eventually, our family would grow again in wonderful ways, it still just wasn't right. And while I do not hover about my children or mourn their absence, and while I am thoroughly happy that they are able to develop their own lives away from their father and me, I do miss their presence in untold ways.
The reason that I'm considering this now, however, is because they've both been home for about two weeks, an unusual event caused by their father's recent heart surgery. Before this, time together for more than a weekend was rare and required the merging of four divergent school and work schedules.
However, after I put my son on the train today, I returned home to realize that even after they've left, my children always make their presence known.
From my daughter:
Two crumpled kleenexes on the bookcase.
A borrowed-from-Mom St. Rose hoodie, a University of Miami sweatshirt, a pair of shredded sweatpants and a yellow Factsheet Five t-shirt on a chair.
Amnesia Moon, by Jonathan Lethem, and A Long Desire, by Evan S. Connell, on the printer.
A green blanket cum dog lounging spot on the floor by the bed.
A borrowed-from-Mom black sweater astride the other bookcase.
A toolbox holding jewelry-making supplies on the livingroom coffee table.
From my son:
A futon left opened (which, unfortunately, no one here at home is capable of or has knowledge of how to close).
Various and sundry bedding material including a crumpled pillow, comforter, Grammommy-knit afghan and pillows from the loveseat in the livingroom.
An empy Wii game box (game to be found at SUNY Purchase).
A Game Cube.
The 4th, 5th and 8th seasons of The Simpsons on DVD.
The Special Extended Edition of The Lord of the Rings Return of the King.
No Country for Old Men.
An A & F bag holding a size 13 Van's Bucky Lasek Navy/STV Navy shoe box.
It does not bother me to clean up these bits and pieces of my children's presence. In fact, I almost enjoy finding their residue, their remnants. Somehow, it tells me that this is still home, that they know it's okay to pack hurriedly the hour before they must make their train, to leave the unnecessary bits out on a chair or a bookcase or a radiator, for me to pick up later. It's fine. And somehow, while I'm happy to know that they are happy to go back to their lives away from here, I'm happy to slowly pick up their bits and pieces knowing that this is the way it's supposed to be, that it feels right.