A week ago, to the minute, I sit at this same keyboard and confess that the only really significant events in my life for the past seven days are seeing a movie and taking the dogs for vaccines. This week has been an improvement. I see yet another film and instead of waiting in line with the dogs for shots, we dress Taffy up in a hammerhead shark costume and take him to Corgi Day at the Huntington Beach dog park. Himself is not a beach person despite having discovered that 100 SPF sunblock is indeed effective, even after five hours in a kayak under fierce Hawaiian sun. His attendance at the corgi soiree is just to humor me and perhaps a trump card to reprieve him from some even more odious social event, one where people, not dogs, are the main focus. Since joining the corgi society I have learned that Taffy is not unique in his imperiousness. Corgis are dignified, serious little dogs and not particularly affectionate. A friend rode in a Sacramento elevator with Sutter Brown, California's first dog, and noted that despite his high public profile, Sutter is haughty. I only subject Taffy to the costume briefly and he is surrounded by paparazzi. Removed from his outfit, Taffy strolls, sniffs a few butts and pees on every picnic basket and beach chair he passes. A few corgis take to the water but the breed seems largely landlubber. Taffy growls at a wave that has the temerity to roll in and dampen his tidy white paws. Himself remains hunched in a big hat, struggling to keep his neck covered by his shirt.
Joe College returns home hungry and toting laundry. His girlfriend as of one month is in tow. I have weaned myself from doing the kids' laundry but I remove a load of my own from the dryer and load in the boy's freshly washed duds. There is a wee little bra. Fortunately, MTV has a marathon of “16 and Pregnant” which I have on for the duration of their visit. I take them to the romantic comedy Enough Said which is urbane and hilarious. One of the themes explored is the anticipation of kids leaving for college. The film is dead-on regarding the anticipation of the empty nest that at one point it's so raw that I consider walking out. The subplot of the main character bonding with her daughter's friend and all the awkwardness this foments is also resonant. My kids often resent relationships I form with their friends. I have a magnetic type of attraction to sweet kids who suffer with what I sense is sub-par parenting. Perhaps this because there were a number of righteous adults who surrogately parented me when my own family fell short.
Joe College and a small entourage return again this weekend to celebrate his 21st birthday. Himself is excited because now the boy will be able to purchase beer for him at a good brewery near the college. Remembering my own behavior at the same age and the things my parents never knew, I have other concerns which I try to keep to myself. My dad had no filter. I remember telling him a million times, “Just because a thought drifts into your head doesn't mean you have to say it out loud.” I am pretty good at knowing what not to say but when Joe College leaves I blurt out, “I'll see you next Sunday for your birthday. It's the only thing I have to look forward to.” When my own mother said things like this it felt guilt inducing which infuriated me. I wish the second the words leave my mouth that I could suck them back in. The boy looks stricken and begs, “Please don't say that.”
Spuds texts me that he has received his first college grade on a research paper, an A minus. I've attended a gathering of parents here in Los Angeles and I know that Spuds is the only kid from the East Side and one of very few who's attended public schools. I've scanned the freshman Facebook page and see there are kids from Oakwood, Choate and Miss Porters. Spuds is definitely one of the more urban kids at Bard. I text him back “Fuck those rich prep school assholes,” and his deadpan response is “Thank you for your support.”
Next week this time we will be at Bard, drinking in Spuds, after a nearly three month separation and what he says are spectacular fall colors. It is family weekend and wild horses couldn't keep me away. I struggle, like the heroine of Enough Said, to live meaningfully when the kids are gone. It is true that what I have to look forward to are Joe College's birthday celebration and Family Day at Bard. This sounds pathetic and I will not say that this isn't a challenging time but the things I look forward to are not my only conduit to pleasure. I like my new office and after the complications of selling the old building it is gratifying to work every day in a homey space. The neighborhood is new to me and I discover charming cottages and secret stairways when I walk Rover. I walk early in the morning too. Until the time changes in November I walk mostly in the dark and dawn breaks as I head toward home. This morning a huge yellow moon hangs low, silhouetting the foliage on the trail. Illegal roosters start in. The new sun illuminates a sprig of fescue. A dried out thorny weed twists up the hillside, delicate and intricate, tiny blossoms perfectly preserved. Humble things majestic in the break of dawn. I do so look forward to time with the kids but am as content looking now as I am looking forward.