For the first time in months I am sitting by myself with a bowl of popcorn with Judge Judy on the screen. With the start of the first work week of the New Year I presume I’ll resume the popcorn and Judy routine. Spuds returns to school tonight on a red eye. Joe College and Girlfriend are here for just another week. Himself returns to school after a three month sabbatical. Again, Spuds is flying at a time of bad weather. When he returns for Thanksgiving there is a huge storm and I am apoplectic that he might be sprawled on the floor of JFK instead of eating my turkey dinner. Now there is a blizzard. His flight, as I write this, has not been cancelled but even in good weather I fret about him navigating the airport by himself and then taking public transportation to Penn Station to catch an Amtrak train to Rhinecliff where finally he will take a taxi back to campus. He arrives in L.A with only a denim jacket. I note this and he shrugs it off and says he won’t be outside much on the trip back to Bard. As of yet there has been no showdown but if he leaves without one of his father’s coats it will be over his poor mother’s corpse.
Spuds’ two weeks at home has flown by. I accept that his friends are more fun than I am (i.e.-the fuss I am on the verge of making regarding the coat). In other cultures kids mostly attend colleges that enable them to continue living at home. Both of my kids are more mature and self reliant for having lived quasi-independently. Joe College is close enough to see at least once a month but Spuds will not return home again until the end of March, and then only for a week. I approve of the college away from home path and the benefits this confers but in some ways I am jealous of families whose kids live at home until they marry and then move next door.
Before the arrival of Girlfriend there is a Manson Family documentary that I haven’t seen on the television. My particular interest in all matters Manson is well known to my family. I put dinner on the table and take my plate to the couch to continue watching. Himself, who never missed an episode of Dexter, and Joe College who at age ten recommended the show to us, start griping about the Manson show ruining their dinner but it is too good to turn off. Joe College, like his mother and grandmother, sometimes has a penchant for indignation. Spuds confronts big brother with this in the middle of the Manson brouhaha. My instinct is to intervene before they start throwing punches but the show has lots of interview footage that I’ve never seen. Instead of the big bust up that this exchange might have incited, the boys work things out like they’re reciting dialogue from an anger management textbook.
My kids’ maturity makes my inevitable mortality less bitter a pill. Himself’s ancient phone has finally died and he spends hours on the Verizon site pouring over possible upgrades. He does comprehensive research on all of the free upgrade models and makes a decision. When he finally logs on to actually order the phone, the offer has expired and the phone is no longer free.
Himself’s parents made a big stink when we announced our plans to marry. Once it became obviously a done deal, they decided to make the best of their Jewish daughter-in-law and took to calling me whenever they had financial or legal concerns. Having run a business for many years honed my negotiation and fiduciary skills more than my ethnic heritage but I was just happy that they didn’t hate me anymore. I suggest to Himself that he call Verizon and ask if given our long (and expensive) relationship with the firm they might extend the offer and cut him some slack. “You do stuff like that…”he begins, leaving the sentence unfinished. “If you really want the phone, call and ask. The worst they can do is say ‘no.” I busily involve myself in other activities, making it clear that he is on his own. Finally he dials and is indeed offered an extension of the special offer. The salesman chats him up however and points out another deal for a far superior phone. Himself spends hours reading reviews of this better phone and is excited about it. We log on to the Verizon website to order the phone. Once the phone hits the shopping cart however we are advised that by ordering this phone we relinquish the unlimited data plan we’ve had for years.
I suggest Himself call his Verizon pal back and see what can be done. I struggle to couch Himself’s reaction in more delicate terms but for the sake of accuracy I most report that Himself was whining. “Pleeeeeease call for me, “ he pleads, “You’re much better at these things.” I take pity and get him his phone without losing our unlimited data plan. “You know,” I admonish him, “I’m going to die some day.” Himself responds desultorily, “Then I just won’t have a phone.”
I demand that Spuds text me on every leg of his journey. Joe College and Girlfriend are here for another week and I will probably be able to wheedle some Mom time. Then, it’s back to the empty nest. I’ll still try to nurture a bit of assertiveness in Himself in between Judge Judy and true crime documentaries but after half a century of grumbling vs. acting I recognize the Sisyphean nature of this objective. I suspect the kids leaving thing will become less devastating as years wear on. For now, we will return to simple meals of sardines on toast and audio books of the Alexandria Quartet. I miss the hubbub and house full of kids but am starting to cherish the quiet a bit too. I tear up when I think about what menches the kids have become. It comforts me too that they’ll always keep an eye on us as time shifts that parent child balance and we need our kids just like when they used to need us.