It’s Monday morning, and I’ve got a case of the blues. This is not the regular case, wrought by the end of a weekend. No, I’m blue because my grown sons were here over the holiday, and now they’re gone. The post-boys-home funk is a recurring event that starts the moment they grab their bags from the back of my car and disappear into the airport terminal. It’s an emptiness in the center of my chest, as well as a heaviness that feels kind of like wearing one of those lead aprons used for x-rays at the dentist.
When Teddy, William, and Henry are home, the air in the house smells like their childhood. The scent is a combination of sneakers in the back hall, unmade beds, wet towels on bedroom floors, and used glassware in the kitchen sink. Now that they’re older, the aroma includes half-empty mugs of cold coffee, and even more glassware, often containing a single sip of beer or wine. And because they are in and out, fresh air works its way into the mix.
And it is the sweetest smell – because it means we are all, once again, in the same house; we are all safe, if only for a moment. It means we are able see the emotion in one another’s faces. It means we have the chance to talk about what both troubles and delights us, about the things that rarely find their way into cell phone conversations. It’s a noisy smell, too, except when we are all reading in front of the fire, which creates its own quiet smoky scent.
The sheets on the beds have now been changed, the towels have been laundered, and the back hall floor is uncluttered. The dishes have been washed, the fireplace flue is closed, and the ticking of our clocks has, once again, replaced the sound of their voices. This, too, is okay – because it has to be. And I’m slowly adjusting to the silence I normally seek, and the schedule I typically follow. I like my life without them, after living in an empty nest for eight years – but I am already looking forward to Christmas, when the fragrance of the pine tree will be enhanced by the redolence of mismatched socks, scrubbed beards, and holiday cheer.