I have a woven bag made out of old lawn chairs. It’s ideal for van-travel because it doesn’t collapse and fits neatly at my feet. Sewing, reading, and snacks are easily found during the long drive up to Montreal and the long drive back.
Twice, I sail out of my son’s new place without it. It keeps accompanying me to his 13th floor apartment because there are curtains to hem — 218 inches of curtain, in fact. Scissors and thread!! Scissors and thread!! The second time, we are about to head home. We say, “Goodbye, goodbye.” Not, “See you tomorrow, goodbye.”
In the elevator, my husband (who is unhappy with his haircut), holds out a clump and says, “See? See? It’s too long!” He swings it to the other side of his part, where it doesn’t belong either. I don’t really see a difference between this cut and the decent ones, but I humor him. . . probably because its so refreshing to be confronted with a grating annoyance that’s easily fixed (as opposed to, say, construction noise at home). “I’ll snip it!” I say, which is when I realize that my scissors are still upstairs — in the now twice forgotten bag.
Riding back up, I wonder about the twice forgotten bag. It’s not that I don’t want to leave. It’s that I want to leave more of myself with C, as if he needs my trove of granola bars and thread to survive. It doesn’t matter that he’s a senior and has done this before. It doesn’t matter that we have left him to his own devices many, many times before. All the bottles of olive oil, cleaning supplies, all the tablets for colds and headaches, the handmade quilt, not to mention the recently hemmed curtains — they aren’t enough. Can’t possibly be enough.
My conscious mind fretted over doing too much. The bag speaks to things left undone and the wish to provide more.
Back on 13 in a flash, I’m grateful for the hair complaint because who knows when I’d have noticed the bag’s absence otherwise (an hour south of the St. Lawrence?!). I doubt we’d have come back for anything less essential than my mouth guard or phone, but still, it feels like a narrowly avoided disaster.
And there I am, at C’s door knocking and knocking and getting no answer and calling his name and not caring about the neighbors, pounding and pounding some more, wishing I had the right glasses on because I can’t see to find his Canadian phone number (all the recent text messages and calls being to his American phone number), wishing I hadn’t recently, for some daft reason, rearranged my phone icons, so that finding “Contacts” without the right glasses is a near impossibility, but finally finding it and calling and going right to voice mail (didn’t we JUST talk about this?!!) and then banging and banging some more. In my deflated logic, I imagine him sitting at his recently arranged desk with his headphones on, intent on the screen, oblivious to any and all nearby stimuli (as he often is, to be honest). And I start to melt.
Tears gather somewhere below my collar bone and a baby-ish incapacity threatens to take over. Since I’m not a crier, this startles and makes me feel like my mother (who WAS a crier — YOU make the connection). There was that time, for instance, years and years ago, when I went to Departures instead of Arrivals and waited at the wrong level of the terminal for awhile before realizing my mistake. By the time I pulled up to the correct curb, she was standing next to her bags fraught with anxiety and nearly in tears. At the time I wondered what the big deal was.
What’s the big deal, Dee?
Suddenly, standing on the thirteenth floor in an apartment tower in Montreal, having just dropped my son off for his senior year and about to head home, I get that all the competent shopping, stocking, and sorting of the last two days had a secondary benefit, nothing whatsoever to do with HIS life and everything to do with MINE: I didn’t have to feel much.
And NOW I feel. I feel helpless and a little sad. Helpless at not being able to see properly. Helpless at the frequent futility in getting C’s attention. Helpless at getting my bag back or even, with the routine task of remembering things. Helpless at yet another year rolling through. How fast it all goes! Helpless at how much it all costs. Helpless to my own feelings of helplessness.
Finally, he answers (a mere few minutes later, no doubt). “I’m not home,” he informs.
“What?!” I actually don’t take the words in at first. Finally, I understand that he is upstairs visiting a friend. I understand that while we were riding the elevator down, he was mounting the stairs up. And why not? For some reason, though, this startles too.
As I write the next day, time collapses again, back to when C. was in diapers. I’ll never forget this (or will I?). Picking him up from this church-basement program he attended a few mornings a week, he gave me a tour of sorts. It must have also been fall, just starting out. He took me into the bathroom and announced with pride, “And this is where they change my diaper!”
Call me blind, call me tired (surely D. was hanging off my arm in an incredibly heavy car seat and probably fussing), but it was the very first moment I realized that this little boy, this little blonde boy, this little boy of mine, had a life all his own.