Jen’s World: This is why the holidays are so heart-filling

December 7, 2018

It was my best, most favorite Thanksgiving ever.

The ham took too long on the smoker and missed dinner by three hours. I completely forgot to make the stuffing until we’d sat down to eat. And the graham cracker (graham crapper, we called it) pie wouldn’t set — making it just pudding under a meringue that wouldn’t peak.

But it was the best Thanksgiving ever because my kid was home.

At about 3 p.m. on the day before Christian was set to arrive, he sent me a text message. “Leaving now!” it read.

“Now?” I wrote back. “For where? HERE? I thought you were arriving tomorrow!”

There’d been a miscommunication. He was driving home a day early.

I do not exaggerate to say I jumped in place while clapping my hands. I was in the living room, in front of the picture window, and Jay was watching me. And still, I couldn’t stop myself.

I felt like an 8-year-old on Christmas Eve.

I spent the next five hours cleaning my house with the nervous energy usually only reserved for visiting dignitaries, such as my mother. I shopped for ingredients for Christian’s favorite meals. I washed his sheets. I dusted his headboard.

When I’d hear a car coming down the street, I’d run to the window like a dog. “Is he here? Is he here?!”

Finally, he was.

And for five glorious days, for the first time since that kid left for college in August, my world regained its rhythm. Christian’s shoes were strewn in the entryway. His clothes were back on his bedroom floor. His head was buried in the refrigerator while he grabbed a gallon of milk before leaving his empty glass on the counter.

His bedroom door might’ve been closed to keep the morning sound out — but there he was, behind it. And I could crack it open just enough to see his size 11 foot hanging off the edge of the bed, his face buried in a pillow.

It was the best five days.

I could walk up to him any time I wanted and wrap my arm around his waist. I could look down the table at dinner and see his face. I could glance out my bedroom window, most any time of day, to see his blue Honda parked in front of our house.

I didn’t realize how heart-filling those little things — the shoes and the clothes and the milk glasses — would be.

Or how they’d make it even harder to watch that little blue car drive away again.

When he left that Sunday afternoon to return to school, I stood on the front step to wave goodbye.

I waited as he checked his phone. As he adjusted his heat. As he turned in his seat to throw something into the back.

I flashed back to standing on that same step, watching him get ready to drive to school for the first time after getting his license. I remembered how worried I was, then, about the five-minute drive up the hill to Century.

It’s funny, I realized, that I am less worried now about this five-hour drive to Fargo. Time is a game-changer.

Christian finally got situated. He turned to wave.

I blew him a kiss, and then — instinctively, though, hand to God, I hadn’t done this in more than a dozen years — I reached out to move the invisible joystick in my other hand to send that kiss to him.

I don’t think he saw me do it, don’t think he witnessed our ancient ritual through his car window. I think he was too focused on driving away, on the road ahead, on disappearing around that corner.

But I saw him.

And instead of the 19-year-old driving back to college, or the 16-year-old making his first solo trip to Century, I saw the 6-year-old, looking out the window of the big yellow bus, his blonde hair sticking out of a stocking cap. His face peering out the window. His little hand blowing me kisses … and using a tiny imaginary joystick to direct them to me as the bus disappeared around the corner to kindergarten.

Update hourly