Michelle Martin

Home to roost

Sunday, August 24, 2014

It’s two years away, but I already know that when Caroline leaves for college, it will be hard for me.

Maybe she won’t leave, maybe she will stay in Chicago. But she will eventually leave, and so will Frank, and eventually, someday, so will Teresa.

That’s all as it should be, of course. I expect that my children will want nothing more than to move on, move out and establish their independence.

But as Caroline and Frank have gotten older, and have started spending more time away from home on their own, I find that I miss them. Even though it’s just summer camp, or weekends with friends, the house is different when one of them is not there, and not expected back that day.

When Frank is gone, so is the running sports commentary, the endless requests to sign up for this race or go to that game, the almost rolling on the floor laughter when Teresa says she’s going to tell us “about old Mr. Jenkins, who died. And it was very sad.”

For the record, we don’t know anyone named Mr. Jenkins, alive or dead. And his story was sad not because he died, but because he never became a doctor.

With Caroline, it’s the point of view she brings to pop culture, her simultaneously sweet and sarcastic observations on the world as she moves through it. She’s a teenager who’s aware that she is a teenager, if that makes sense.

Who knows what Teresa will be like when she’s a teenager? I hope she still makes up stories, and shares them.

In the meantime, I have the sense of peace and security that comes when Caroline or Frank returns home after some time away, the feeling that for a moment, everything is all right, because everyone is home. It’s even better if I’m making cookies when they come in; what says home more than the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking?

Jesus told his followers that they would have to turn their backs on their families to follow him. But when he died, John says, his mother was at the foot of the cross.

Family — or the desire to be with family — is not so easy to escape. But it’s in the nature of things for young people to move on, to separate from their parents, if only for the purpose of building a new, less dependent connection as they grow up.

Until then, I’ll enjoy their company, and hug them as often as I can. I’ll remind them (nag them, they would say when they think I can’t hear) to do their homework and clean their rooms, and ask where they are going and who they will be with and when they will be home.

When they come home, I’ll hug them again.


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