“We should make a drinking game,” my daughter said. “Do a shot every time mom says she read an article.”
She’s not yet sixteen and has spent our time in quarantine growing up in ways that are magnificent and startling. She’s not doing shots, but she is walking around our house in a bikini. She’s got earbuds in her ears and she’s singing as loud as she can. She’s off key and she doesn’t care. Her long dark hairs tangle in our sandwich fillings and transfer from the wood floor to our bare feet. She’s testing the waters. And we are all here to bear witness.
Friday was my son’s last day of high school. To mark the occasion, he stood against the door of my office and let my husband draw a pencil mark on the white paint. My son is a hair taller than his dad and I swear if I look closely, I can almost see him shoot up like a blade of grass in one of those fast forward nature shows. He doesn’t appreciate my attention and I try to give him room, but sometimes I can’t help but stare. Feet, calves, hands, nose. These parts of my boy are like heirlooms passed along from my father, my mother, my grandparents, my in-laws. When I look at him, I see everyone I love, and I miss all of them.
I’m going to miss my son when he goes to college. Of course we don’t know about start dates. We don’t know about distance learning or dorm move-in. We don’t know anything and the not knowing is making us, in turns, a little louder and a little quieter and a little needier. At the beginning, it was a rare day when our emotional highs and lows aligned, but we are learning to live with that and things have gotten easier.
I know you wanted to know how I am doing, but it’s hard (harder than usual) to completely separate myself from my children and my husband. Of course, we are finding our own independence where and when we can (toasting marshmallows on the stove burners, building a hell mouth in Minecraft, cooking tomato sauce, making a scrapbook of photos from 2015, ordering new tube tops, lifting weights, sweeping the floor,) but we are also experiencing this moment the way a single organism might. Together we shift away from pain and move toward comfort. We are being gentle with our collective self.
One day, my kids will move out of our house. I’ll use an envelope and stamp to send my them articles cut from the morning paper. I’ll email essays or text them a poem. We'll be farther apart, but in all the inevitable noise and motion of the "normal" world I'm hoping we remember the small revelations that held us close at this time.