It’s a scramble: fast food receipts and dirty socks to sweep out from under the bed (just like when he was a kid), pillow cases and comforter to run through the wash (so old, but he loves them), toilet to scrub and sink crying out to be sponged (yours truly crying out not to be spending my time like this), then boxes of who knows what stored near his desk as a matter of my convenience… now to be crammed into a small closet.
This mess? It is exactly as he left everything – some five and a half months ago.
Next, there are last minute items to pick up at the market for sandwiches and omelets, hopefully sufficient for snacks to satisfy his seemingly bottomless appetite.
Finally, there is the table to clear of circulars and bills, the couch to declutter of folders and magazines, and I can already imagine friends gathering as all the once baby-faced boys exchange “man hugs” and their 15-year friendships pick right back up where they left off at the holidays.
I glance at the clock. Just in time. The prodigal son returns from Italy.
And as I pull into the Kiss-Ride, he emerges from the subway station toting a backpack and pulling a worn, oversize duffel on wobbly wheels. He arrives in a jumble of baggy salmon shorts to the knee, a brown t-shirt, and some sort of plaid flannel number that screams “American” as I chuckle, considering he’s been living in Europe.
I would know him anywhere. He’s mine. And I smile.
The once shy little boy with his head in the clouds is confident and relaxed.
He bends down to hug me, stows his luggage in the trunk, and we make the quick trip back to the house. He says he’s “good,” Italy was “good,” and then in the kitchen as he talks, I drink in my beautiful, artsy, beloved boy.
He compliments the homemade soup, he comments on Italian girls, and he’s animated as he explains that they are taught to steer clear of all men. Then he hands me sketchbooks with fragments of people and buildings. Although he lived in Florence, he begins to describe the narrow dimensions of the streets in Venice and how magical a city it is.
I note one of his images on which he has marked “Canaletto,” the name of an 18th century Italian landscape painter. The page is a bit crumpled but it’s a lovely quick sketch, his hand reflecting the sureness and speed of these past three years of drawing discipline.
I tell him that I’m happy he’s home.
We finish dinner. He checks the time. I know exactly what’s coming and it has taken, as I assumed it would, precisely one hour as he speaks the words every mother wants to hear: “Mom, can I take the car?”
Then he’s off to meet up with friends, on to the movies, and I remind myself that he’s an adult and I resolve not to worry.
I tell him to have fun, to lock up when he comes in, to put the keys on the kitchen table, and I say goodnight.
The next afternoon, as I propose dinner comprised of Mediterranean-style veggies over angel hair – I mention my recent trip to the farmer’s market – he asks if I wouldn’t mind finding a substitute for pasta.
Sheesh. What was I thinking?
I have an ample supply of brown rice and various seasonings, and it occurs to me that he’s likely had his fill of linguini, ziti, rotini… In fact, I’ll plan on burgers tonight!
I imagine that the next weeks will involve college student comings-and-goings, my vehicle in constant use, and a slow unfolding of stories from my son’s overseas adventures. I will need patience; he has always done everything in his own way and his own time.
Meanwhile, the house will fill with commotion again in the evenings in the most delicious ways possible. My son’s shoes are by the door where they’ve always been, his pens and sketchbooks are scattered on the couch, no doubt the socks are balled up and shoved under his bed. But I content myself with the fact that at least for awhile, my boy is home.
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