Less than a month ago, a friend said goodbye to her third and final son as he head off to university. In between helping him box up all of his worldly possessions, farm out his collection of reptiles and move into his new apartment, she managed to release a book, buy a house and then proceed to gut the entire thing in order to create something new. I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous.
When Son #1 left for college, I cried every time I walked past his empty bedroom. It took a month before I could walk in there and sort through the wreckage. I filled two tall blue laundry tubs with clothes that he had left behind and set them by the washing machine. I gathered up various pieces of sports equipment that lay strewn around the room and in the process found two moldy cups of hot chocolate that had never quite made it to the kitchen. I threw out gum wrappers and wads of crumpled high school homework assignments.
And I took solace in the fact that there was still Son #2.
Five days after my youngest left for college, I boarded a plane to Barcelona. I wasn’t about to hang around, wallowing in self pity. No, sir. I was going to do the sensible thing. The only thing one does when faced with something one can’t possibly bear to face. I’d run away. I spent months traveling, teaching and eating, not necessarily in that order. Five months later, when I came back, his room was just as I had left it. It was still empty.
That was four years ago.
I’m telling you this because I just realized that they’re not coming back.
Well of course, you say. It’s the natural order of things. You give birth to them. You raise them and then you let them go. Off to spread their wings in the world. Oh, they’ll be back for holidays or summer vacation, or when they crave a home cooked meal or if maybe they need dear old mom to do their laundry. But they’re never coming back back.
The closets are full of clothes they don’t want and games they’ll likely never play again. There’s a collection of Beanie Babies in the window seat that probably numbers 100. There are dozens of stuffed penguins and the complete Alex Rider series in hardcover, although most of them no longer have their jackets and there's a collection of numbered baseballs that represent every significant hit in a certain little leaguer’s short career.
It’s all still there, right where they left it because I haven’t been able to bring myself to do anything with it.
My friend walked me through her new house, pointing out the large kitchen, an even larger great room and her new master bedroom through the exposed framing. “What about the boys’ rooms?” I asked, and she pointed to the guest room.
The other day, as I was trying to prep for class at the kitchen table, I started thinking that I could use a room of my own, a place to write and collect my thoughts. A space just for me. I stood in the doorway to Son #1’s room, taking inventory and making a mental list of all the things that would need to be done. It needed new carpet and a new coat of paint. I’d get rid of the small desk in the corner and bring in the big one from my bedroom. Perhaps build some bookshelves.
But that was the easy part. It was the other part I was worried about.
And then I started thinking that my friend had the right idea. Maybe it would be easier just to move.