Merrick has been coming home for lunch everyday since school started. I’m trying to get used to this new development as it directly conflicts with the vision I had for my days once school started. I imagined the 6 hours I’d have as my time. One of the things that I miss during the summer when my kids are out of school, as much as I relish the lack of scheduled activities, are the chunks of time I have to myself that the school year affords me. My son’s new routine is making me realize just how much I looked forward to my “bastion of solitude”, interrupted only when I chose it to be. This school year, I’ve already started proportioning my days differently. Now, there is the block of time after dropping girls off at school until M comes home for lunch. The next block is after lunch until it’s time to pick up the girls.
It’s not as though I have to prepare meals for Merrick, or spoon-feed him but it’s an adjustment to how I spend my days. Even on days when I’m out, when I get back home, there’s no mistaking he’s been here. There are telltale crumbs on the counter, occasionally the TV has been left on (even though he’s not supposed to watch TV during school time), the microwave door is standing open, and there are condiments left out for me to either clean up or leave out and move around until he gets home and cleans up his own mess. For those of you wondering how I can complain about the habits of my children that drive me crazy in the midst of my loss, trust me I’m learning that wistfulness makes room for annoyance, anxiety, and impatience; behaviors most mothers would put on the “con” list of parenting.
Right now my son enjoys having his lunch break at home between morning and afternoon classes. After being at home for a little while midday, he seems energized when he walks out the door. I’m learning to make room in my “bastion” for him and his respite needs. Today while I was out for an appointment, I texted Merrick telling him I would bring home lunch. When I got home we sat together eating and talking. He told me how his morning went (“Good”), and which colleges he’s considering. I told him about an article I read in Time magazine that I thought he’d like. Then, as if on cue, he asked the daily question I get from all my kids, “What’s for dinner?” We can be in the middle of a meal and they still need to know what’s for dinner.
As Merrick was finishing up lunch and about to go back to school he reminded me that he had Spoken Word Club after school. Talking about Spoken Word made him remember his first time publicly freestyling (rapping without prepared lyrics). He was in the basement of one of Jordan’s best friends. He talked about Jordan’s and now Merrick’s friend Billy, who was yelling and waving his hand throughout his performance. Merrick said with a laugh that Billy is the perfect hype man. He decided he wanted Billy to be on stage with him whenever he performed.
I listened to Merrick just as caught up as he was in his memory of his inaugural performance. As we grew quiet, I relayed a memory of mine from that time. I told him that whenever I think about him freestyling in front of Jordan’s friends, I remember Jordan words about his brother. I said to Merrick, “Your freshman year in high school when you were having trouble adjusting Jordan worried about you. He was away at school but he called one night to talk about you. One of the things he said to me was,
“ I wish Merrick could see how great he is. He freestyled in front of my friends before I did and he was good. All of my friends think he is cool.”
My voice trembled as I recalled my conversation with Jordan. I looked at Merrick whose eyes were as shiny with tears as mine. While looking down at his sandwich he said, “Jordan said that about me? I kind of remember that.”
“Yes he did. He always wanted you to know how talented and special you are.”
Merrick shook his head in agreement saying, “That’s right, I did freestyle before he did. He told me that.”
“Think of it this way, you were Jordan’s inspiration too. You two were good for each other.”
Merrick was silent for a moment, seeming to take in all we’d talked about. Then in the way he’s had since he was a little boy, he looked at me and in his most sincere voice said, “Thanks Mom.”
I watched him get up from the table to throw away the trash from his lunch and to retrieve his backpack. He ambled down the hall towards the front door calling out, “See ya,” as he left. I sat at the table a little longer hoping what Merrick and I had talked about would give him a boost. I realized as I sat, that my son and I could share the sacred space that lunchtime provides. It is true that wistfulness is with me all the time. On the positive side, it shares space with love, laughter and so many sweet memories. There are still many lessons for me to learn as the mother of four.