Also, he likes my cooking. The second he walked in the door, he was ready to eat. I heated up a plate of macaroni and cheese (homemade, of course) and twice-baked potatoes. We all sat around and watched him eat, soaking him in. His little brother showed him the duct-tape wallet he'd just made. "I can make you one, too," he said. Just minutes before he came home, I'd finished making the warm vanilla butter sauce to go over the cranberry cake. We all had big slices and finished catching up on what's been going on in his life.
Within an hour, his two best friends were here. We all sat around in the living room talking, although to say "talking" seems bland. Those three are dramatic and burst out yelling at each other frequently. "You're so stupid!" "You are such an idiot!" "You are such a liar!" Boys are like that. It's some kind of twisted love language.
We stayed up a little later than usual, reluctant to go even though we know, by 11 p.m., that they are ready to talk without parents around. At 3 a.m. I awakened to hear them opening and closing the refrigerator, looking for "something good," and getting drinks of water. This morning I find empty glasses and plates on the counter. The cranberry cake is completely gone.
This is new and old for me, this holiday returning. I remember the feeling from my childhood. Being the youngest of five and with 16 years between oldest and youngest, I anticipated comings-home all my life. The house was full when they were home and so empty after they left. I see things differently now, though, as a mother. My life is full when he's not here, although quieter. But him coming home adds a party atmosphere, an irrepressible urge to bake cakes and make Chex mix.
I am thankful for so many things all the time. But here is a specific one today: I am thankful that the separation has not been painful on either side, and that coming home is a celebration all around. What more could we have asked for?
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