It’s been 72 days. Exactly.
Let’s see. That’s the length of time of Kim Kardashian’s marriage. Hmm. That seems like a short period in the context of wedded bliss.
72 days is enough to begin a work project and complete it, depending on complexity.
72 days is enough time to fall in love – truly fall in love – though some of you may think it happens faster.
And 72 days is the amount of time since I’ve seen my younger son. In another two weeks, both he and his brother will be home for the winter holidays.
There’s something inexplicable in seeing off your “baby,” even when you stand in front of him and know he is no longer a child. And it isn’t that I don’t miss his older brother, because I do, but he established his independence years ago. He left for school partway into summer, is now in his third year of college, and I suppose I’ve grown accustomed to wondering where he is (Paris? Austin?) – as he seems to have inherited the familial penchant for wanderlust.
My younger son has always been a more mysterious child – harder to figure out and certainly less inclined to talk. He’s wildly creative but lives more in his head, and he has also required more explicit guidance. When it was time to let go, I did so as we all must, allowing him the freedom he needs and recognizing his independence.
My own mother knew little of handling a child with care. Her own strange failure to thrive had dwarfed her capacity to respect boundaries or read signs. She never understood when she spoke too much or listened too little, when her giving was taking, and her taking was thieving.
My parenting has been a different matter, no doubt in reaction to my own childhood; I’ve observed my boys, and adjusted as I’ve gone along.
I may have been thrilled at being Four-Minute Mom when Number Two Son finally called a few months back, and I was delighted to be 15-minute Mom thereafter once or twice. I was even 30-minute Mom during an extended conversation which he initiated, as architecture and environment were the topics of lively discussion.
My boys weren’t home for the holiday (and no, I didn’t spend it alone). But the 72 days that have passed? They’ve been simultaneously dragging and speeding along in a new rhythm I’ve yet to master. Nothing bad mind you – only different. And the emptiness, well, it’s finally abating.
In a phone call just before Thanksgiving, not only did my younger son ask me how I was doing, several times, treating me with tenderness that still seems unexpected, but he mentioned that his roommate receives packages from home. He also said he misses my cooking, and he wouldn’t mind if I sent something edible from time to time.
(I had to smile.)
It took me a minute or two, but then I realized. It wasn’t about whatever I sent. It was about the fact of sending it.
This morning I shopped – prowling through the mini containers of apple sauce and dried fruits, picking out what I thought he might like, and considering what would ship intact. I packed a large envelope with snacks, a short letter, and some silly printed images, and I mailed it off.
Tomorrow I will do the same for my other son, as I remind myself that though they’re growing up, they’re still my kids. My college kids. Very much loved, very much missed, and later this week to receive tangible signs, arriving in envelopes marked “Handle With Care.”
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