I spent a week in Chicago-land, my home base the house SIR and Little Cuter bought just before they wed last year. They were up and out to work before I rolled over and looked at the clock. The guest bed was comfy and the house was quiet and there was no reason to get up and get moving.
I rambled around, upstairs and down, but there were no chores to be done. When G'ma would visit me she always found something to do. She'd sew or clean, organize and cook, pick up kids at school and play with the dog. I had nothing. The dog slept all day, raising a semi-curious eyebrow at me as I glanced into the bedroom where he, comfortably ensconced amidst pillows and blanket, ruled the roost. Nothing was out of place. Nothing needed fixing (by me) or cleaning or straightening or washing or ironing. Yes, I would have ironed. I wanted to be useful.
I did the grocery shopping, but I couldn't put the newly purchased items away. Their kitchen is well organized in a way that only they understand. I could only disrupt the flow. So, I stacked the cans and the spices and the ripening fruits in a straight line on the counter, and I walked away.
It felt like cheating.
I've been in San Francisco for a couple of days, for an engagement party and to see my boy. He lives in a nice sized box overlooking the Civic Center and Davies Symphony Hall and, in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge. They are tearing down the high rise across the street, and soon he'll have a view of the rest of Twin Peaks. The bookshelves are stacked two deep, there are no dishes in the sink, and if I had a year I couldn't begin to tackle the work that needs to be done to bring the bathroom up to G'ma's standards.
It doesn't bother him and it's his house so why do I care?
My sister spent a week in my studio apartment in 1973. She cleaned my toaster oven until it shone brighter than it did when I took it out of the box. She vacuumed under my bed and washed the insides of the windows. She's obsessed.
I am not.
G'ma would come to my college apartment and clean the stove. My roommates and I were grateful. She was appalled that we would cook in such an environment. We really didn't notice. I think that's the same attitude my boy brings to the pile of socks on the floor at far side of his bed. Dressing for the gym today, he grabbed a pair and smiled at me. On my last visit, I matched the friends and tossed the holey ones and grumbled to myself that I had failed as a mother. He does have a closet. Why he didn't use it was a mystery to me.
Just as my dirty ovens surprised my sister and my mother, I suppose.
It's an odd feeling to be alone in another's home. When the other is your child, it's even weirder. I see the toys I've sent for birthdays, the pictures I framed and they've displayed, my old comforter that now covers his bed and I know that I am with them every day even though my body is thousands of miles away. Still, she is so neat and he is so oblivious and it's obvious that they are their own people and I am just the woman who parented and then let them go.
Not too far, but gone nonetheless. He's in and out, working and exercising. She's up at 5:30 am and away all day. Yet, they are here beside me, all day long. His unmade bed brings me memories of kissing him awake for elementary school. Her well-organized home sends me flashing back to the color coded files she created for her college applications. They incorporate what I send and they make it their own.
I know that's what grown-ups are supposed to do. I just wish we could all do it closer to one another. Perhaps then he'd be a little neater and I'd have a clue about where she stashes the pasta. They are adults, making their own ways in the world and doing quite nicely. I just wish I understood it a little bit more.