I am not not happy. And I do not live only for time with my children. The truth is that usually during the course of one of our infrequent visits we get on each others' nerves and I look forward to a return to solitude. So much for that. Joe Workforce is all graduated and moving out of the dorm that he has inhabited for four years. He is not crazy about returning home. This is mutual. He is busily networking and schmoozing every connection he can think of. I suspect, like most newly minted grads he will end up working at something he's not crazy about and that certainly doesn't require a four year college education. Given his student loan debt, a schlub job will likely foment even greater resentment. And the return to the kingdom of Mom and Dad is the frosting on a very crappy cake. I have relegated the discussion of room and board charges to his father.
This is Spuds' second summer out of the nest. Last summer he received school monies for an internship in Detroit. He moved into the long established household of a friend's son. Now he is determined to live off campus and it appears that all of the local housing requires a full year lease from June to May. Instead of subletting he is going to stay in the rental for the summer. He has hustled for three part time jobs on the campus. There is a shuttle that runs from his little village to the school but one of his jobs is parking cars at a music venue and there is no shuttle on weekend evenings.
His plan is to use the car of a friend who is leaving town and has no place to store it. I provide the parents with proof of adequate insurance coverage but the kid's dad is so dicky, wanting to involve attorneys and such, that I put the kibosh on the whole arrangement. This causes Spuds, who is in the midst of finals, to nearly blow a gasket.
I have been concerned about Spuds' being dependent on friends and public transportation, particularly come winter, when staying in bed might be preferable to waiting in the snow for the campus shuttle. Given the debacle with the loaner I start thinking that maybe it's a good idea for him to have his own Purchasing a vehicle in New York is more complicated than it is here. A car has to be inspected and can be registered only to a New York licensed driver. Plus, any car in our price range will inevitably be a rust bucket.
Given that Spuds has never established his own residence I think too that it might be a good idea to be there to help him purchase household items and establish utility accounts. The beauty of the Hudson Valley makes the prospect even more attractive. After conferring with Jimmy my mechanic, I start car shopping. I make some Craigslist contacts and ask people to take cars to Jimmy for his inspection. Jimmy is from Thailand. Even though he is only a year older than I am, he calls me “Mama,” an honorific (at least to him). After each Honda or Toyota he calls and says, “Piece of crap Mama.” I decide that Spuds will have to bum rides until I find a safe, inexpensive vehicle. It starts to look impossible.
I find a website called Car Guru which lists the inventory of a number of different used cars dealers. What's different, is like on Yelp, vendors have been reviewed and rated. It is no surprise that most local dealers are short on stars. I find a decent looking Toyota Corolla with one of the rare well reviewed dealers and arrange to check out the car. I take Bryce, my Filipino office manager, who is knowledgeable about cars, to Koreatown with me. The dealership has no English signage but the salesman is probably a native speaker. We ask if he's willing to take the car to Jimmy's and he obliges and drives us cross town. There's a ton of traffic and then when we get there Jimmy is out testing a car and we have to wait for half an hour. The salesman is a great sport about this. We talk a lot about food. When Jimmy finally does show up, with my retinue of Asian men, I negotiate the purchase of a car.
I am to set out by myself this weekend. Yes, driving a car cross country will certainly go down in the annals of Jewish motherhood. But, I love to drive and will stop and visit friends en route. I have a 30 hour book on tape of “The Goldfinch” and this is probably the only opportunity I'll ever have to get through the whole thing. Still, I hope I get some points with Spuds and that when the time comes, he opts for the better rest home.
There's tons to do, getting ready for a two week expedition but once the tension of the car purchase is over I find myself excited and aware of feeling happy. I have a conversation with a friend with a girl Spud's age. We have a couple of drinks and try to remember how we did it. I look at a decade of old datebooks and there are two or three appointments or activities every single day. Now entire weeks are blank. But after years and years of having little kids to tend to, intellectually I accept that I very much deserve to chill. Why do I feel so guilty about my indolence?
Since both kids are at college I've cultivated solitude. I walk with the dog for several hours a day. My Catholic husband never uses the word “happy” unless there is an “un” in front of it. I will not categorize these days of contemplation as happy ones. But I have never been more present in my life and there is a peace and satisfaction that comes of the quiet, solitary hours.
But this week I'm digging the little rush of adrenaline that comes from making plans and lists and reservations. I don't have the desire or stamina to return to 24/7 motherhood. But, this little surge of hustle and bustle reminds me of the organizational and logistical skills I've cultivated. I'm looking forward to two weeks in full throttle mom mode. When I return I presume Joe Workforce will be fully ensconced in the basement that I'd been fantasizing about using for my own purposes. Himself has always thought I'd spoiled the kids if they had two pairs of shoes. We were both completely on our own when we graduated college. Still, I'm not ready to change the locks. But I must remember. I'm not just Mom to the 22 year old graduate. I'm Landlady.