Film Boy is back from college for the first time this week. I have to admit, when I woke up on Friday and I realized today was THE DAY, it felt a little like Christmas morning. I was kind of nervous and kind of anxious all together, what my kids call “nervo-cited.” What could we expect?
I made a little sign with a green Sharpie marker that looked like one of those that the limo drivers hold to pick up their clients at the airport: “Mr. Ben Senior.” My little guy wanted to come with me. So did my mom. We piled into the Honda Pilot and drove to the airport and got there early. Way early. In plenty of time to talk to another couple waiting for their college student and two friends. In time to see the reunion of a mother and her little kids, armloads of flowers and happy tears.
He texts me.
Where R U
We’ve been waiting at the door where all the arrivals come in. We’ve somehow missed him. The little guy sees him first, runs and jumps, legs wrapped around his waist, big bro little bro. I walk to him, my eyes getting hot.
“We gotta go. I’m meeting Claire at Robbie’s at 8:00. I gotta get outside. Get a picture of the sky. She thinks I’m on set and filming outside.”
“Hi to you too.”
“Love you Mom!” He raises half of his mouth in a smile and tilts his head.
I expected this moment. I knew he was coming home a day early to surprise his girlfriend, still in high school. I knew he would want to rush to her, but it still stings. I really care for Claire. She’s beautiful and kind and smart. She loves him for who he is. She doesn’t want to change him. It’s way too early to think this way, but I could see them getting married one day. But this week I want him to myself. He sends her messages for the entire ride and runs down the driveway before I can even put the car in park.
I text him.
Hey I wanted to talk with you about this week. I know you’re excited to see your friends, but we need some time with you too. I’m claiming you for one family dinner, Thanksgiving, and a brunch. You ok with that?
I feel like the last one picked in gym class. All the cool kids are going to the mall and they don’t invite me. I feel like I’m sitting by the phone all night, pathetic, waiting for my crush to call. I used to be the one he ran to when he woke up from a nightmare. I was the one who believed in him before he did. I used to be the love of his life. But now, I’m on the back burner.
It’s stupid, I know. He’s right where he should be. It’s all normal and to be expected. I can intellectualize the heck out of it. It’s the “roots and wings” philosophy. Kids who have strong roots in their families and in their sense of themselves have the strength to also have wings to fly into the outside world, healthy and happy. But it stinks when you’re the one left behind in the nest.
He comes home a little after 11:00 that night, dropping her off at home in time for curfew. I’m half asleep and the dogs hear the garage door before I do. We’re watching an indie film on Netflix. He sits down in the living room. It finishes and he stays. We talk. For hours. It’s almost 2:00 when we walk up to bed, turning in opposite directions to our rooms. He’s getting up early to take Claire to brunch. I didn’t have “hang out with me and Dad” on my texted list of times I want to claim him this week, but it happened anyway.
I’ll take it.