It is an interesting time. Not just in the hurly burly world of politics and foreign affairs, but here on the home front. My son is preparing to move into his first house. His house. Not his parents'. It is in most practical applications a similar operation to the one that got him moved into his freshman dorm. Or the on-campus apartment into which he moved back in September. The question of his being emotionally prepared for this leap is no longer on the table. This is somewhat true for his mother and me, but we still find ourselves sitting around the kitchen table, or nearly around since two of us can't really go around, wondering about how this story continues to grow.
I have spent the last week unraveling the story of my own meandering departure from my parents' home. I lingered longer than a lot of my friends, that was certain. The "gap year" I took after I bailed out of what would have been my freshman year in Santa Fe turned into its own learning experience called "working at Arby's." I can't be sure if it was planned or not, but my mom and dad weren't going to make it easy for me to slink back into my room in the basement. I had to get a job, and that job gave me the scent of what might be out there as an adult. The relationship with my high school girlfriend was strained by the lack of a storybook ending. I just hung around, and in between shifts at the fast food restaurant, I clung desperately to that thing that I thought was going to be my salvation.
That's not how it turned out.
I did make a mini-career out of Arby's. I did hold onto that girl until I went away to school the following year, but by then, the sweet story that would have been about enduring love had already been strained to the breaking point. It was my sophomore year, or my second year since those terms don't easily conform to my six year college career, when I moved back to my home town and into an apartment off campus. The habits I had acquired as a member of the Arby's crew and the opportunities available in a freshman dorm had already done their work. I was in college to learn, but not always what was being taught in the classroom and lecture hall. I was generating my own misspent youth.
So here I am, some thirty-plus years later, looking at my son piecing together his own version of growing up. I think of the parties I threw in that first apartment, with the "Bon Voyage" banner that became our decoration for all occasions. I imagine there will be similar debauchery taking place in the living room and front lawn of the house my son is renting. We share enough for me to imagine that he will be going to bed at nine o'clock and rising early to head over to the library to study. He might get up at nine. He might go to the library, but I know what this first house is for. It is a learning experience. The good news is that my son seems to be a quicker study than his old man.