The bathroom in between our bedroom and our son's has been a crossroads for many years. This is where many summits have taken place. Decisions that would alter the course of our family's history have been made in and around those doors. It is the place we return to over an over again. When the cars are in the driveway and no one is in the kitchen or living room, it makes sense to check out that oddly communal spot.
This is where I encountered my son in the very early morning hours after his senior prom. I heard him come in, and since it was way past midnight, he made every effort to be discrete. This didn't keep me from waking up when I heard his stealthy footsteps enter the bathroom, then I heard him just as quietly reach for the doorknob to close himself off to his presumed sleeping parents. He had come to brush his teeth. As our family tradition would have it, he found his toothbrush ready with a nice dollop of paste. Whoever brushes first prepares the brush of the next in line, since they have to wait for the Sonicare handle to be free. My wife had prepared my son's brush and then headed off to bed, returning the favor I had done for her just a little earlier. Neither of us had any idea whether we would see our son until the next day, let alone hear that distinctive hum coming from the bathroom, brushing his teeth.
I did, and I got out of bed to see how he was feeling. Did he have a good time? Was he going back out to get breakfast with his buddies? Did he dance? Did his date like her corsage? Were you really brushing your teeth at three in the morning?
I found him standing in front of the sink, completing his rinse and putting the toothbrush away to charge for what would undoubtedly be my turn first thing in the real morning. All the questions I had for him seemed inconsequential, as he was fairly vibrating from all the excitement of the night. It was awesome. It was the best night of his life. I tried not to pry too much. I asked if he was headed back out into the dark, and he assured me that as happy as he was that he was far too tired to go out to find any further wild oats to sow. He was content. Extraordinarily happy, but bushed. I went back to bed with just a taste of the joy he was radiating. It was a magical moment that I am glad I didn't miss.
A few weeks later, my son discovered our old Sonicare handle in the back bathroom. The bathroom that he doesn't have to share with his parents, having moved to the back room some months ago. He took his Sonicare brush and assembled his very own toothbrushing station at the back of the house. When I was done with my dental hygiene for the night, there was an empty spot in the brush holder. It was yet another focused reminder of the space that will be left when our son leaves for college at the end of the summer. That spot is preparing me for other holes and new gaps that will be opened in the fabric of our lives.
It's a big world, and there are a lot of sinks. I expect he'll make good use out of many of them. We'll be happy to see him back in front of ours, now and again.