The boxes and bags of my sons' childhood will be hauled away this week. Both have a couple of cartons stowed away in a cupboard but everything else is being carted off to the St. Vincent De Paul Society, not out of any sort of religious fealty but because they'll take anything. I know that both kids will return home but I don't know if it will be for short visits or more extended stays. Nevertheless, all vestiges of “childhood bedroom” are being stripped away and the space is being converted for the comfort of paying guests. Our first is a 19 year old Korean girl who arrives next week.
Not to be judgmental, but the priorities of a twenty-three year old are very different than those of his parents. To be fair, lists have been made and packing started well in advance but there have been last meals in restaurants all over town and visits with friends, but, the boy is leaving without a fully operating phone. No job applications have been submitted despite a number of positions that I've found which sound promising. I confess to having poured over job boards, as I worry that he'll run out of money, and know that it won't be easy to find something that he likes as much as the one from which he just resigned. I am also very hands on with the packing and while the employment suggestions are ignored, I am called upon to assist with the departure arrangements. The little Toyota is jam packed and a giant canvas bag full of vacuum compressed clothing and larded with pairs of tiny shoes is ratcheted to the roof. The departure is delayed by 24 hours as there are still errands to run. I admit that my first thought at learning about the schedule change is that I have one less day to clean and repurpose the room. Also, as what became the penultimate night celebration involved several quarts of bourbon so I expect no early risers and I write this in a rather foggy state myself.
We gather for the last Shabbat we'll have together for a while, with a handful of the kids' friends and their parents. At first, like in the olden days, the kids cluster together, separate from the old farts. When we come to the table though I realize that while they haven't learned as much from experience as I have, they are adults and hold their own with bon mot and trenchant observation. Funny that it takes seeing them interact with other “grown ups” to realize how grown up they've become.
One of the sacrifices of moving half way across the country in a little car is that Number One Son has to leave the film books and items of furniture that he inherits from Richard. The surrogate dad stayed with the kids when we traveled and was always the emergency contact for the whole family. It's eight months now since his death and I am surprised at how fresh the wound remains. His empty place at the table is glaring and when guests start to reminisce, Number One Son breaks up and has to leave the room. My impulse is to run to comfort him but I stop myself and he returns, composed, a few minutes later. He is capable, now I see, of self soothing.
The older among us disseminate a lot of advice for the trip. “Drive SLOWLY. You're carrying a lot of weight.” We warn the kids about unscrupulous mechanics and speed traps. I remind him that he has an upgraded Auto Club membership with a big towing range. He says, “I lost my card.” All of the old folks at the table are aghast. I am slack jawed myself until the boy reveals that the card is safe in his wallet and that he's just fucking with me. Even though he has the AAA card I will be on edge until they reach Chicago. And after. My mom was always wracked with worry about me. It made my angry because I thought that she perceived me as incompetent. Now I see that this maternal love thing may be habit forming. I don't (for the most part) doubt the boy's competence but having lived for nearly six decades I have a large accretion of bad experiences. The boy is smart but just by virtue of having spent fewer days on the planet I know how vulnerable he is.
The kids mark their stops on a map. The UFO Museum in Roswell. The neon signs of Route 66. Carlsbad Caverns. Precious Memories. Furnishings are being ordered for their Chicago apartment. I would do things differently but the conservatism that comes with age means that for me there will be no more great adventures. Just maybe some little ones. For the kids, the road awaits. I am demoted from my managerial position to mere consultant. I try to tamp down the the fretting born of wisdom. I often wish that I'd known in my twenties what I know now but in fact I would never trade away that ebullient optimism. Tomorrow the kids set out to invent their lives. And here at Casamurphy, we begin to reinvent our own.