My grown-up family rarely goes to the movies together anymore. The intersection of the Venn circles of our four lives has become narrower and narrower, as our sons mature into adulthood. Going out as a family has become a rare treat.
Last week, we went to see Boyhood, a brilliant film that was shot with the same cast over twelve years. Within the span of the movie, we watch the central character, Mason, evolve from a precocious six-year old boy to a chill university frosh. The ages of Mason and his older sister are exactly the ages of my two sons.
Naturally I identified most strongly with Mason’s mother. The quotidian details of her life with two children are very familiar, even though our circumstances are very different. At the beginning of the movie, she is snuggled between her two kids reading them Harry Potter (been there); years later she is grilling Mason about where he is going and who he is hanging out with (done that). Most of all I recognize her strong maternal pride and protectiveness.
In one of the final scenes, Mason is about to walk out the door and drive off to university in another town. His mom sits at her tiny kitchen table, holding her head in her hands and sobs and sobs. She says, “I just thought there would be more,” fearing that her life has passed in the blink of an eye and the next time her family would all be together would be at her funeral. I felt like I had been hit in the gut.
My youngest son, Micah, will also be traveling down the highway in a few weeks to attend university out of town. The nest will feel empty, very empty. I sat there in the theater wedged in between my two sons. But it was my youngest son’s hand that I held tight as the tears streamed down my face. He graciously let me, squeezed my hand back, and shot me that beautiful shy smile that makes me melt every time.
When my oldest son, Jake, left for university a couple of years ago, it was a seismic shift in the bedrock of our family. It took several weeks for Micah, my husband and me to shift into new places. But with Micah still at home, I continued to enjoy the rhythm and routine of being a mom — making breakfasts, packing lunches, and giving him hugs when he returned home from school (always the best part of my day). I love his tribe of boys that congregate almost daily in our basement, play Ping-Pong in our backyard, and sometimes join us for dinner. Our house still buzzes with youthful energy.
It was hard when Jake left home, but Micah leaving home in a few weeks feels apocalyptic to me. A chapter is closing, as I know it absolutely should. Pretty soon our home will be a place he will “visit” as his life orbits farther and farther away from mine. As his boyhood ends, my future begins. It is up to me to use this new and empty space in my home and in my heart for reinvention. Yes, this is my time.