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There is one less person around my table- for now. Yesterday, after several days of pre drop-off weepiness, I drove my oldest son Alex to LaGuardia Airport in New York City so he could head back to his junior year at Vanderbilt University. It was wonderful having him back in the kitchen this summer. He cooks. He cleans up. And the best part is he’ll sit and have long, leisurely conversations about politics, economics and the state of the world. I love these talks. It’s the kind of talk you don’t get to have with your child when you’re texting back and forth or when you have that occasional (hopefully weekly) phone conversation.
I know I’m lucky that he is fully functioning and able to go off into the world without me holding his hand or without his needing me to manage the minutiae of his life. It is what I wanted when I was raising him and what I want now. A friend whose fourth child was born with Rett syndrome once spoke of how now, at 18 years of age, her daughter wouldn’t be able to go off to college like her other three (unafflicted) children had done. So I’m not really complaining, just whining a bit. And I’m doing it today because I didn’t get that much of a chance yesterday— because of that trip to the airport.
So here’s what I’m talking about: Yesterday morning I was driving (in the rain) toward the airport and I was about a mile from the George Washington Bridge (in rush hour traffic) when all of a sudden the sunroof in my Volvo opened up half way. I looked over to Alex in the passenger seat next to me. He looked particularly shocked because he had been trying to handwrite a last minute thank you note (a note that he should have written three days ago, but I digress) and hadn’t been paying attention to anything else going on around him. He pressed the button to close the sunroof, but it wouldn’t close. I pressed the button. Nothing. Did I mention it was raining? I tried to manually close it. Alex (my rugby playing son whose been known to bench press 300 pounds) tried to manually close it. Bradford, my 17 year old son and sous chef (who I had brought along to comfort me on the way home) started barking at us to stop messing around and just close the damn sunroof. So he tried to close it and it actually moved forward two inches – but then it suddenly started moving again and opened all the way. We were totally exposed. My Volvo was really a Poltergeist car.
By then I was on the Harlem River Drive in rush hour traffic. And did I mention it was raining? We took the Volvo dealer’s card out of the glove compartment and I asked Bradford to call and ask to speak with the service department while Alex tried to close the sunroof. The very nice woman who tried to help told him to tell me to pull over and try turning off the car. But I was on the Harlem River Drive- and there is no place to pull over on the Harlem River Drive. And really, only an idiot would purposely stop their car in the middle of the road (because that is the only place to stop on the Harlem River Drive) in rush hour traffic.
So we continued on to the airport where I kissed Alex good bye and gave him a big hug (but not before he actually spent two of the longest minutes of my life finishing that thank you note while I was parked in front of the American Airlines “departures” door where there are HUGE signs about not standing, much less parking). He looked sorry for me. He told me he loved me and wished me good luck for the ride home.
On the way back when sous chef-boy and I were stuck in traffic on the Major Deegan Expressway and we were sick of getting wet, we tried the Volvo dealer again. And just then the interior overhead lights started flashing on and off. I was in a Poltergeist car that was also a clown car. This time we asked specifically to speak with the service manager. He clearly felt bad for me but could only offer that if I was somehow able to pull over and park (on the Major Deegan- you’re kidding right??), and was somehow able to get the sunroof to close, then maybe I could pull the fuse in the fuse panel (what fuse panel? which fuse?) to disable the sunroof. I’m not making this up. That’s what he said. So we got wet.
By the time we got back on the GW Bridge we were laughing. What else could we do? And then that annoying lady in the GPS system spoke up about bearing left ahead. We looked at the control box and saw that it indicated our car was swimming in the middle of the Hudson River in circles. My Poltergeist clown car was swimming round and round in circles in the Hudson River. I looked over at Bradford and he was cracking up.
“Is it too early for happy hour?” I asked, shaking my head.
“Mom,” he said very kindly, “it’s happy hour somewhere!”
And that’s what I’m talking about at my table.