So they’re home for the holidays.
Their sneakers are piled near the front door, their jackets draped carelessly over the dining room chairs. When I flip open the kitchen trash, fast food bags stare back at me with defiance.
Yes, my two college-aged sons are home. No doubting that. This isn’t the first time they’ve returned from school, nor will it be the last, but because I’m a mother and of a certain age, I forget how their much-awaited presence suddenly and vehemently disrupts our quiet domestic life.
What’s that noise?
Can you smell that?
Shouldn’t you be (fill in the blank)?
What do you mean, there’s nothing to eat in the fridge?
I love having my boys home. I love knowing they’re close by — close enough for me to peek in their rooms early in the morning when they’re fast asleep and as innocent as they will ever be at this age. I love listening to them talk among themselves (usually who’s done what in fantasy football) and I especially enjoy experiencing the small deeds that show what fine young men they’re fast becoming.
Just the same, I often feel like a restaurant hostess, greeting them at the door with a wide smile and open arms, only to see them bolt after the dirty plates are in the dishwasher. A night out on the town with their high school buddies still beats the glacial evening spent answering parents’ questions. Which is understandable, really, when you realize that I’m nodding off on the sofa right about the time they’re ironing their favorite dress-up shirt, the one another woman bought them.
It’s not easy sharing them. It’s even more onerous to remind them to call if they’re going to be late or to always behave like gentlemen with the opposite sex. But over the years, I’ve mastered the guilt card: Don’t embarrass your family. Now they listen, or at least make a good show of doing so, a sign that they realize they don’t know everything, maybe.
Like their parents once did, my sons are trying to figure out their new roles as young adults at the cusp of true maturity. And like us, too, they’re finding it difficult to equitably divide their time among all their interests. So much to do, so many people to see — how do they navigate all these choices in a few days?
When the boys are home, I allow a self-congratulatory moment. Done good, Mama, I tell myself and celebrate with an extra piece of dark chocolate.
They work before they play, checking off the list of chores I drew up for them. (I subscribe to the earn-your-keep school of parenting.) And they plan ahead, ambitions never forgotten. One is pulling together his office wardrobe for a spring internship in a Big Four accounting firm. The other pores over a fat spiral book, “Actex P/1 Study Manual,” as he prepares for the first actuarial exam.
Still, there’s so much growing up to do, so much learning to accomplish, so much struggle and so many obstacles to overcome. And triumphs to enjoy, too, of course. Always those, always.
The other night I dreamt I was listening to Christmas music. I woke with a start and realized the dream was true, the music real. In the dark, I crept across the house to spy on my sons and their friends, the kids I had watched grow up alongside my own.
Laughing uproariously in the TV room, unaware of the late hour, they played with my singing snowman as if it were the only toy in existence: boys, still boys, on their way to manhood.
Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.