Being :: When He’s Here

January 3, 2013

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Being: Conscious, mortal existence; life.

Every month we welcome two families, two people, two voices to share their stories in whatever way they choose. We hope that you find joy in their daily lives, and their simple habit of just being. 


As I begin to write this, they’re still sleeping upstairs. All three of them. The eleven-year old, his seventeen-year-old sister, and the twenty-year-old, home from college for Christmas. This afternoon I will drive the oldest to SFO, for his cross-country flight back to New York. But for now they are all above me, sleeping, oblivious to how much solace I glean from their act of synchronized sleeping. They are all here; breathing softly, safe, and I get to putter below, making tea, and being their mother.

And mothering. When the oldest comes home from college, I mother him. He has not been home since August, and there is much mothering to catch up on! I fill the refrigerator with orange juice and eggnog and bake his favorite chocolate almond biscotti.  When he wakes up and lumbers through the hallway late in the morning, I meet him in the kitchen, wanting to feed him. I take him to expensive pour-over coffee bars and cheap taquerías. He misses California Mexican food more than almost anything; you can’t get a decent burrito in New York City, certainly not a super with guacamole for $5.95. I lecture him on the disadvantages of eating every meal out like a New Yorker and beg him to buy frozen fruit and make smoothies. He promises that he will, but not with the added handful of spinach that I recommend. I buy him Kleenex; I take him for a haircut; I knit him fingerless gloves. I tether loose buttons on the wool pea coat we bought for his first New York winter, two years ago. Although at twenty he’s technically an adult, I drive him to the doctor’s appointment I have made for him and pay for his acne medication because unaffordable prescription expenses and acne are proof that one doesn’t entirely become an adult with the passing of a particular birthday.

I watch him chase his little brother through the house, wrestling him to the ground and pretending to pummel him, as he’s done since the youngest could barely walk. I watch the two slouch side by side on the green couch in the office, playing Batman on the Wii, with matching haircuts and matching concentration, despite the nearly ten years between them. I watch him treat his sister like a little sister, although she is seventeen: questioning what she wants to study in college and the music she listens to. When he likes a song she plays from her phone in the car, by a band he has never heard before, she beams. He makes us wait to play “Up On the Housetop” by the Jackson 5 until we are almost at the grandparents’ house in the car on Christmas Eve, because for years he has declared it the best Christmas song ever. It starts, he tells me to turn it up, and we all rock out. I turn and see the three lined up in the backseat, bouncing, and it’s as good as having them all sleeping at once upstairs.

I go see Quentin Tarantino’s new film with him and his dad, slightly terrified at the notion, and cover my eyes during the violent scenes. This being a Tarantino film, my eyes are covered often; still, I want to see it on a big screen with him beside me, because he is a film student and Tarantino is one of his heroes. Later we talk about tracking shots and color correction and the spaghetti western tradition. When he talks filmmaking he speaks with the speed and authority and charisma of a Tarantino character. I’m captivated and I don’t have to cover my eyes.

He leaves his dried eggnog cups beside the computer and his shoes and socks sprawled on the floor. Like he always did, like his brother does. One afternoon I find their matching Adidas Sambas splayed beside the coffee table a few feet apart, like an art piece, like a premonition. One day the smaller set will grow to the size of the larger, and will find their place beside the coffee table only during summer breaks and Christmas vacations. I know this is true but still I don’t believe it.

The first year he came back for the full six weeks of winter break and the entire summer. The second year we got him for three weeks of winter, ten days of summer. We had to cajole to get him home for ten days this Christmas. He’s a budding cinematographer and he has work to get back to: a web series he’s shooting on Friday; a pizza commercial; a music video; his junior production project, filming in February. We homeschooled from his youngest days, hoping he would learn about himself as much as he learned about everything else. Hearing about his work and his fervor for it tells me we did something right. It makes it easier to endure him being so far away.

Still. When he’s at school we text, we talk on the phone, we see his face on FaceTime, each format a bit better than the last in terms of connection. Still, it isn’t like having him here, filling the fifth space at the table, lingering over dinner (handmade fettuccini with beef ragu because it’s his favorite), lighting the leaves of the advent wreath on fire over my objections and laughing at his brother’s twisted notions about clones. The texts, the calls, the FaceTimes do not linger; the back-and-forth gets snagged in the technology; the laughter gets delayed so it isn’t quite shared. And, of course, he is out of our reach. He never really liked hugs after he turned seven or so. I steal them now when he is home, and mostly he indulges me. I rub his back until he twitches; I brush his hair from his eyes if I can get away with it. Once he was a baby who cried for my touch. Now I can commiserate.

His sister will be off to college in a year-and-a-half, and just as I don’t believe the smaller Sambas will get larger, I can’t imagine that she will go. I can’t believe that her older brother will come home for shorter and shorter visits, that one year he won’t fly in until Christmas Eve, that one Christmas he may find himself filming at some far-flung location and won’t come home at all. He doesn’t really live here anymore, but I deny that too. Tomorrow morning he’ll wake up in New York and his bed upstairs will be empty. I will walk by his room with a pile of folded laundry and I will cry. But I can’t say that he doesn’t live here anymore. My heart tells me otherwise.

This month we happily welcome Patricia Zaballos to the Being series.  Patricia is a writer, homeschooling parent, knitter and urban bee keeper.  Patricia writes about kid-centered learning and raising children to be writers on her blog, Wonder Farm, and recently published her first book, Workshops Work! A Parent’s Guide to Facilitating Writer’s Workshops for Kids.


Rhythm of the Home is an online magazine for families that focuses on creating with children, nature explorations, seasonal celebrations, conscious parenting, and mindfulness in all that we do.   To learn more about us, please visit us on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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Meryl January 3, 2013 at 11:20 am

I’m in denial, I know, but my almost-two-year-old will never be that grown-up, right?

amanda {the habit of being} January 3, 2013 at 11:30 am

beautiful, patricia! i know those days are coming and i’m trying with all my might to will life to slow down, to let childhood linger a very long time.

Stephinie (GypsyMama) January 3, 2013 at 12:20 pm

oh patricia! i just cried all the way through this…. my oldest is a junior and highschool and all of this is quickly becoming our reality. i’m learning to let go, to let him fly…. but he will always be my baby.

Carole January 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Best article I have read in a long time. Just beautiful.

Lisa Hassan Scott January 3, 2013 at 1:32 pm

This is beautiful, heart-rending, poignant. I shared it on my Facebook page today:

Thank you, thank you.

Pippa January 3, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Wow. I found this via Lisa’s post. Wonderful beautiful heart-breaking writing. Thank you for the tears. Mine are 4 and 2, and already I dread it, and yet wish them full bright independent lives. Such is motherhood. Shared it at and twitter too.

Kim January 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Oh, I am not looking forward to these days. My little one is four, and I can’t even imagine what it must be like. The letting go is so hard, but we must do it…right?

Teika Bellamy January 3, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Such a beautiful piece of writing. I was cuddling my little one as he went to sleep, and simply holding him, and holding him… wishing for him to be that small forever… and yet, I knew with sadness that that is not really a wish that should come true. Thank you for sharing this.

april January 3, 2013 at 4:59 pm

so beautifully written.
and so bittersweet.

tearing up as i read, since i can relate so well to your words.

thank you.

Dawn Suzette January 3, 2013 at 5:58 pm

This is beautiful in so many ways Patricia.
Thank you… and a thank you to him too for letting you share a bit of his world.

Debbie January 3, 2013 at 6:34 pm

This is so beautiful, Patricia. As someone who was not “mothered” well…I lingered in your words, in the beauty of the life you have given your children, in the way you love them. Thank you for this wonderful gift. I refuse to admit that my sweet boy (six) will ever grow up and leave. Sigh. I can’t bear that thought tonight. xo

patricia January 4, 2013 at 10:03 am

Thank you for the kind words, friends! Denial is pretty much the best way to get through the letting go, as far as I’m concerned! Pretend they’ll never leave, and enjoy them as much as you can. You’ll be able to get through the letting go when the time comes. You may cry a lot, but you’ll get through it.

And hug them as much as they’ll allow.

Heather January 5, 2013 at 6:55 am

Wow, Patricia, you have me in tears. I try daily to savor my kiddos a bit more than yesterday. I know our time together is short yet I overlook that thought. Denial is the best survival strategy. That and good friends to walk you through it.

Christi January 6, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Thanks you for sharing. As a honeschooling mother of 3 small kids who can sometimes wish for alone time this is a beautiful reminder that the days are long but the years are short…thank you for sharing.

Melissa January 7, 2013 at 7:37 am

I can so relate to this. My oldest started college this year and I was thrilled to have him home for two weeks. The house is quiet now without him. The youngest doesn’t seem to make as much noise as the oldest…or maybe it’s just the two of them together. Thanks for sharing.

Kristin January 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Well Tricia, I was doing fine with the fact that our eldest had left for college too until I read this and my eyes welled with tears. I’m happy to have had breakfast with you and your Dear young man, his buddies and their Moms, and my eldest. It was kind of weird that they are all so grown. H’s ambition is catching and homeschooling him definitely worked!

beth lehman January 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

i loved this… your writing… these poignant moments… resonated with me and reminded me of going home that first year of college. my own children are 9 and 12. your photographs are so great, too. and i just realized i’m in a ‘walking’ group with you! mosey + plod. good to see you here and over there, too.

Cindy January 8, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Weeping. Just beautiful and perfect and heartfelt. It’s all the things I think about when I hold my two little ones (8 and 2) at night and watch them breathe. Sigh. Thank you.

Jennifer briffa January 11, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Hi friend,
Resonate is the best word I can think of to describe my experience with reading this. I already miss my Vinnie and he will leave Wednesday. I think daily of the empty spaces left by my two adored sons when they go back to their other homes. I often step into their rooms and just take a deep wiff. Or pick up an object on their desk and hold it for a few seconds. It helps. I wish I could capture some of those jewels such as you have in this moving article. I will share one with you today. I have been away for three nights and when I got back Syl told me Vince had helped him with all the tree dismantiling and I found each ornament carefully laid out all over our huge dining room table in very neat and orderly rows. For some reason it was ver endearing, especially as I have worried about how he is ordering his affairs right now. I want to keep this act bright and shining for ever. I hope I can. Sincerely, a like minded Mama. Jenny.

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