I was eating a banana at my kitchen table this afternoon when my 15-year old son walked in. I’d been planning to transport this piece of fruit to my sewing room where I could eat it in relative solitude, but I paused when I saw him carrying a giant container of Parmesan cheese he’d been hoarding, for some unknown reason, in his bedroom. He opened the refrigerator door, put the cheese back in, and took out a squirt bottle of chocolate sauce.
“Mom, there’s this girl on Youtube who emptied a bottle of this and replaced the chocolate sauce with water, and took it to the gym to drink out of,” he said as he pantomimed the drinking motion.
“That’s a good one,” I acknowledged. I took another bite of banana, suddenly aware of how rare it was to see him out of his room on a weekend.
“You know, I barely ever see you on the weekend anymore,” I observed.
“Yeah,” he nodded, clearly not understanding my implication that this wasn’t a good thing.
“Well, I like seeing you,” I responded.
“You’d better get used to it,” he advised. “When I’m grown and I’ve become a herpetologist you’re going to have to handle knowing that I’m working with cobras and elapids and stuff.”
“That won’t bother me,” I said, “as long as you know what you’re doing, and you come home occasionally.”
“It’ll bother my dad though,” he said with just the beginnings of a malicious, teenage grin, thinking of his extremely reptile-phobic father. “I can’t wait to take a selfie while I’m holding a cobra and send it to him.”
“Okay, I will be pissed if you get killed trying to freak out your dad,” I informed him.
“Yeah, I know,” he said, popping his earbuds back into his ears and heading back to his room.
I looked to the dog for his opinion on all this. He was staring at me intently, but offered no input; his dinner was half an hour overdue. He is as reliable as Old Faithful when it comes to his second daily meal. He never forgets it, and if he’s staring at me or whining in the late afternoon, it’s either because he hasn’t been fed or because he’s trying to persuade me he hasn’t been fed. This routine is one of the most predictable parts of my life, as reliable as seeing my kid’s mop of blonde hair bobbing about my house. All of a sudden a wave of understanding came over me.
“Listen,” I said to Thomas. “I feel like right now is one of those magical times you have in life. I have you here, and I have him here. In five years, I won’t have either of you. And I’m going to look back on this time and remember it, wistfully, and wish I still had it. So let’s just sit here and enjoy this moment.”
He continued to stare at me.
“You just want your dog food, right?” Answering in the affirmative, Thomas got up and pranced toward his dish, thrilled finally to have heard the magic phrase. I popped the last bite of banana in my mouth and got up to feed him. After I set the bowl of food down, I turned back toward the table. There sat my kid’s comedic prop, the bottle of chocolate sauce abandoned once it had served its purpose by a teenage brain not yet wired to remember to put any goddamn thing back once he’s finished with it, except maybe an economy-size bottle of Parmesan cheese that’s been in his room for two days.
I picked up the chocolate sauce and opened the fridge, taking comfort for just a little while longer that he is still at home, still too young to go, because he is not quite ready to reliably put things away when he’s done with them, or to understand he shouldn’t take selfies while handling the earth’s most venomous reptiles. For now.
Thomas grabbed the last few bits of kibble in his dish and tailed me into the sunroom, where we sat together, for a few sweet minutes, in the warm light of a late afternoon.