As the weather warmed this week in October, I was thinking again about the summer. This was written 8/27/11, a few days before our son left home for a gap year in Israel.
This has been the last summer our son was going to be with us, before leaving the family to go to a gap year in Israel and follow his life. At the same time, our daughter fostered a kitten all summer long, destined to leave her for another home. Every moment of this summer has been bittersweet, knowing that things would change forever at its end. It has also been full, with many long deep talks, and with four of us hanging out around the dinner table until late, enjoying each others’ company. Just as I stand this morning in my bathroom eking out the last drops of hair gel to save every bit, I know that these last 3 days with my son are totally precious; I can’t ever buy any more of these moments, and the ones in the future will never be the same. My daughter and I are united in the anticipation of loss. My husband turns away from it as much as possible to support us all. He spends time with our son watching Die Hard with a Vengeance. They plan to bake challah together the last day. For our son it has been the summer of anticipation of a different kind, that of freedom, adventure, exploration, adulthood. He can hardly wait to go, and his imagination explodes with fireworks of possibilities.
For those of us who remain here, in the family home, we are already drawing closer to each other, getting used to plans that are for three instead of four. We have redistricted the lines of responsibilities. We remind him to leave his room clean and spare, so it can be used for…something. We watch him look at everything with the eyes of one who is leaving, we watch him with eyes of the ones who are left.
I remember leaving my mother, my family, to go to college. I could hardly wait. The short distance from the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles to Berkeley seemed so satisfyingly far away. The unknown was sweet and enticing.
Many years later my mother told me how she made herself wait until I was on the airplane before she cried.
Now my mother lives ten minutes away. She will be with us when my son has gone, coming over for Shabbat meals on Friday nights, asking what we have heard from him. I will turn on my computer to show her his blog from Israel. We will all talk on Skype, but he will not be here to make me feel small against his chest when he hugs me goodnight.