Through a Screen

The last 18 years have dwindled down to a few days. The last 18 years, the entire breadth, depth and width of it will soon come to a close.  What am I doing with this time?

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I’m buying command strips, and towel hooks, and college-ruled paper, and checking off supplies for high, middle and elementary students, and getting the latest Nike gear for Fun Size, just on the cusp of puberty, who has transformed, overnight into someone who is suddenly fashion-conscious.  The fashion awareness seems to have had a trickle-down effect to his younger brother too…

The Macy’s sales associate tells me about the latest advancements in mattress pads, and learning that after the coupon, combined with the promotion, the $45 pillow is now only $5. How have I missed these deals my entire life? The twin xlarge sheets that the dorms require are still on the shelves… But the supplies are running low.  why didn’t I buy these when the email arrived in June? I’m busy enough as it is now.

I’m grateful for the friend who sent him the thick navy blue beach towel, and matching washcloth, who said, “You can wash this with jeans.”

Should I pack him some Tide… just in case?  I can’t wait for him to go, I mutter to myself, so that he can finally appreciate how much I do for him. For that moment of awareness that will come, the other moms tell me, when he will ask me to make a sandwich for him, not even caring what’s in it — just grateful to have someone make a sandwich.  He has no idea… 

Command hooks are cheaper at Kroger than they are at Bed, Bath and Beyond, so I took them all back, and went back to Kroger to buy them.

The view through the screen is all I can get right now…

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Trying to condense the last 18 years into a package in my mind. I struggle to remember his middle school years, even him as an elementary student seems silly… It doesn’t fit the person I know now.

The pictures of his dorm room are online, so I can study to see, what have I missed…What else does he need?

The drive to get this part — this part of preparing him for college — perfect is my attempt, subliminally, to make up for all the things I failed to get perfect before.

I catch glimpses of him, through a screen, rare moments, when he’s acting like a kid again, playing with his brothers… he doesn’t want me to notice this about him. Because it’s not who he is right now.  He cringed when I pulled out his Toy Story toys at his graduation party, and stuffed them back into the attic.  But this is who he is…

Ace Hardware has spray paint, for the baby’s latest business, Rustoleum, on sale for $2.50 a can. I get there and get the colors on time.

There is no time to cook. We are ordering take-out, while I hop from store to store, taking care of the returns, “that one’s not right,” and, for the better price here.  Mostly, I see cereal bowls around, and see that cereal is doing my job quite well.  I’m so happy for the meal plan he will have at college. A swipe of a card, and he’s full.

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I have to grab my camera and steal these moments as they unfold. My hands wet with soapy dishwater, the pot is boiling over the the stove. But here he is acting like the little boy I once knew, the one that lived here, that I am struggling to remember.

He’s on the cusp of so much adventure right now. The dorm room, pristine and cleaned up and spit polished for all the incoming freshmen; yet the walls are lined with invisible collegiate memories of camaraderie, companionship, and fun from the students who have lived there decades before…

Care packages will arrive as soon as he arrives at the dorm. First I’ll send cookies, and then, maybe some Ginger Bug Soda that he can keep in the dorm-room fridge. This is how I fill my time, as I think while standing in the endless checkout lines.

I think about his roommate, coming all the way across the world, and his mother, and what it must be like for her.  I wonder if I’ll ever meet her… The cookies are as much for the roommate as for him.

He loathed the idea of going to Staples to pick out the binders he wants. The coupon ends today. I finally found the right mechanical pencils he wants, the Bic ones, with the gray padding at the bottom… and pens, Papermate, that click. Still preferring to wait until he’s standing in line at the college bookstore to pick out the binders.

Why do you need binders? I just used a spiral notebook, with pockets for each class?

He counters with, “where do I put all the papers they give me?  I’ve always used binders  — it’s my system.”

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The pillow is too firm. He’s fine with the one he has. And why wouldn’t he be?  A piece of his life from home to go with him. I went through his old binders and pulled out the ones still intact, the ones that escaped the last-day-of-school bonfire, and packed them into his bag.

This little boy left along time ago. Maybe when all those brothers were born? I’m unaware, as it was so subtle. But I truly like, love, this man he’s become. I wouldn’t trade him out for a bunch of memories of the little boy he once was. I don’t have time today to get all sentimental about who he was and who he will never be again, trying to recapture what was, missing who he is. He was that. Not letting go doesn’t diminish any of what really was. I’m embracing him for who he is today. And I know for him to be that wonderful man he needs to go.

Ask me in a month how I feel…

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One comment on “Through a Screen
  1. Dearest SJ

    I know this feeling so well. You have encapsulated it perfectly. Over here we do not send our kids off to college. The Uni the BA attends is just down the road; but the moments when you wonder where that tiny person went, the moments when the house seems so empty….they are still the same.
    And then they call you to tell you their car window won’t go up, what should they do????? We are always mothers and what a blessing that is 🙂

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