The Boy may well end up completing his high school education away from us. He's progressing in his new Home Away from Home. This feels like a half-life as a mom. Not a failure, but not quite what I signed up for, either. These thoughts are swimming near the surface of my thoughts of late. Not that one's offspring are ever fully banished from a mom's mind, but there are some pools of thought which are less often explored than others because they are too deep, and the danger of drowning too great.
Perhaps the thoughts are stronger today because the Boy's 16th birthday came and went with nothing more to mark it than a brief visit to the school without so much as a candle stuck in a twinkie (There are rules about bringing in outside food to the dorms, but there are vending machines with all sorts of junk. Don't get me started...) because the vending machine ate the coins without dispensing the cello-wrapped, processed mini cakes selected. The absence of the twinkie was somehow more difficult to swallow than the inability to make Evan the red velvet cake he would have really enjoyed. It just seems so pathetic to be willing to settle for the shadow of a celebration only to be unable to even pull that off successfully. Or maybe those thoughts are just more potent because I spent yesterday afternoon hanging out in what should be his bedroom?
That bedroom sits vacant in a mute testimony to what I wish. What I hope. What he did and did not choose. There have been conversations about converting the room to a space that can be used by those of us who live here in more corporeal form, but I resist. He never made that room his own. It still has the new ceiling fan to match the light fixtures in the rest of the house sitting in the unopened box on the floor because the mister and the Boy were going to install it together. The paint color was on the walls when we moved in, and he consistently deferred choosing another color despite several conversations about repainting the room to suit him. The narrow twin bed remains undisturbed by any but the old Bella cat day after day. The Boy's other furnishings speak of teenage boys in game rooms and locker rooms with a penchant for the color red. Still, I have stood guard over that room for months as if it housed my dreams.
The behavior is not terribly different from a parent who has lost a child and refuses to clean out the room or let go of possessions. This has always seemed a sad tendency to create a museum piece to the frozen last moments in time with lost loves; yet, I so understand the why and how of it. My mister began to wear the Boy's clothes because he is practical, but I was horrified by this act of betrayal as if he had voiced out loud the possibility that our son might continue on to adulthood without living under this roof we prepared for the restoration of our family of five. As if he were really gone, and we were only four. And that was not pretty. Letting go of the clothes came only after a visit when the Boy stood taller than I. The pants that I so resented seeing on my mister would be a tad too short for the Boy now. I sobbed alone later over this evidence of change and growth... but also saw in it the reality that I cannot hold on to the frozen dream of being a whole, normal family in this place at this time.
More than one crying jag, daydream of normalcy, hollow-chested desperate prayer, whistful wish, and brutally cut off thought unbidden have characterized the past months. Not unlike the Mothers with Museums, I grieve for the loss of What Could Have Been. What Should Have Been. Like those mothers, I am fumbling along trying to find the New Normal. To just be okay. Unlike those mothers, I have the possibilities of a future with my child to pull me away from the museum I would create to avoid the terror of forgetting a Lost Love. Because my love has simply chosen a route where I cannot walk alongside him, but he still travels onward toward manhood.
Yesterday, I pulled the bedding from his long unslept in twin bed, stood the mattress upright against the wall, and the mister took the frame apart. We will drive these pieces over to be donated to another family's need this weekend. Later, the mister and I drove home in the mommobile with a double mattress and bed frame in the back and a box spring tied to the roof. We wrestled the bed up the stairs and into the shambles of what was the Boy's room. The new bed still needs sheets, but I have a sense of the look of it after draping it with the quilt and the pillow shams that will match the paint on the walls. The locker room accents look wholly out of place now, and will likely be the next items to go. I feel a pull toward completing the transformation of this space into a guest bedroom not in order to cleanse it of my son's presence, but because the space will reflect the potential for future use. The unknown identity of the future guests whose heads will rest on those new pillows may well include none other than the one whose presence I have tried so hard to hold static in the place that was never really his own. Perhaps he will retreat there one night after enjoying a slice of his mother's red velvet cake...