We all need reminders that the hours and days of helping the kids tie their shoes and memorize multiplication tables are finite. If we didn’t remember that it all goes by so fast, it would be hard to make each one of those school lunches and keep on saying “Have you practiced your piano yet?” each day. This recent “Domestic Lives” piece in the NYT is one of those reminders. Beautifully written with references to the daily domestic details we all share, it puts you in the shoes, not that many years hence, when you’ll be an empty-nester. It sounds like the writer, André Aciman, was a good, attentive dad, and needn’t regret having spent too many nights away and too few bedtime stories read. Still, we all have regrets of how we could do more, and of times we wanted to be alone rather than play another game with our kids.
THE doors to their bedrooms are always shut, their bathroom always empty. On weekends, when you wake up in the morning, the kitchen is as clean as you left it last night. No one touched anything; no one stumbled in after partying till the wee hours to heat up leftovers, or cook a frozen pizza, or leave a mess on the counter while improvising a sandwich. The boys are away now.
Two decades ago there were two of us in our Upper West Side home. Then we were many. Now, we’re back to two again.
I knew it would happen this way. I kept joking about it. Everyone joked. Joking was my way of rehearsing their absence, of immunizing myself like King Mithridates, who feared being poisoned and learned to take a tiny dose of poison on the sly each day.
Even in my happiest moments I knew I was rehearsing. Waiting for my eldest son’s school bus, standing on the corner of 110th Street and Broadway at 6:20 p.m. while leaning against the same mailbox with a warm cup of coffee each time — all this was rehearsal. Even straining to spot the yellow bus as far up as 116th Street and thinking it was there when in fact I hadn’t seen it at all was part of rehearsing. Everything was being logged, nothing forgotten.
My kids are 6 and 10, and now a day doesn’t go by without me wondering what I would do without them. In 10 very short years, like this writer, I’ll find out.