Ryan was home from college this past weekend. My astrophysics-major son has decided he loves to teach and now, in his sixth semester of college, is taking his first education class. His assignment was to spend the day with and interview a teacher. He chose, of course, his very favorite teacher: Mrs. R., who taught his PEP class (the school’s class for “gifted” kids) from 3rd through 8th grades. I’m happy he chose her because, for me, it was a reason for him to come home from Wednesday through Sunday.
And it was a great time — the sound of brothers hanging out together, dinners for four instead of three. Not that three isn’t good, but I was happy to be our whole family again. We spent an evening at my mom’s for which I decided to cook (oy, what was I thinking?!). On Saturday, we had a family day that began with Star Wars, Episode I, in 3D (you must be an extreme fan to sit through this). We had lunch at the Yardhouse with yummy, crispy, skinny fries then took a break for homework (boys) and grocery shopping (mom and dad). We spent the evening in a rockin’ game of Monopoly with ‘80s music playing in the background. Ryan kicked our butts, laughing maniacally as he put us out one by one. Like old times.
On Sunday, Patrick took Ryan back to school and I took Christian to RE (Sunday school) and his Coming of Age program. I spent those three hours once again at Barnes and Noble, doing some market research for a few articles I am writing. Looking for an empty page in the notebook I had grabbed on the way out the door, and I came across something I wrote down in the summer of 2009. I had forgotten about it.
“What would you like for lunch, sweetie pie?”
“Grilled cheese and chocolate milk!”
Ryan is almost five, and lunch is his favorite meal. I butter the bread for two sandwiches and slice the Velveeta. While the sandwiches grill, I mix up Hershey’s syrup and milk.
“Will the baby like grilled cheese too?” he asks.
“Probably. Go wash your hands now,” I tell him as I put our lunch on the table. I turn the TV stand so we can watch Little Bear on Nick Jr. It’s our favorite show.
Ryan smiles at me as he climbs into his booster seat. He takes a bite of his sandwich and hums along as the show’s theme music plays. This is our special time.
“I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you too, Ryan.”
Remember this, I tell myself. I take a deep breath and close my eyes, fixing the scene in my mind and the feeling in my heart, knowing this time will be gone too soon. We have lunch and laugh at Little Bear’s adventures.
“Mom, do you remember what we did with the old video tapes?”
“In a box in the garage, but don’t bring anything in,” I call out as the garage door whooshes shut behind Ryan. “We’ve got enough stuff in here already.”
Thirteen-year-old Christian shakes his head and looks up briefly from the computer. I sigh and look around a living room strewn with school supplies and dorm room linens — Ryan is off to college in less than a month. He walks back into the living room carrying a box of videotapes.
“Ryan, I said not to bring anything else in.” I am a little annoyed and none too happy to be helping my son pack to fly the nest. But he just smiles and pops a tape into the old VCR. The familiar music fills the room and once again, Little Bear is off on his adventures. Once again, I am a young mom with a little boy and one on the way.
I sit down on the couch. Ryan sits on one side of me and Christian leaves the computer to sit on the other — Little Bear used to be his favorite, too. We watch and laugh. My heart remembers, and before the tears can spill down my cheeks, I say, “Hey, who wants some grilled cheese and chocolate milk?”
I make sandwiches and mix up Hershey’s syrup and milk. We eat on the floor in the living room and have a Little Bear marathon.
Remember this, I tell myself.
Oh, thank goodness I wrote it all down and captured that special moment in the summer before our family moved on. I felt the same way this weekend, having the same fun with the boys when they are 20 and 15 that we did when they were 13 and 8 or 10 and 5. Maybe someday we will watch Little Bear together when they have children of their own. Maybe we will still be playing Monopoly and listening to ‘80s music with them when they are the same age as I am now. I hope so.
I wonder — what are the little things in your life that make you happy?