Red, white and blue. Today is the day for it, don’t you think?
No red here (though I love the color). No white either. (Too easy to spill, to soil, to stain.)
Make that a yes.
It started with a phone call from my kid. My college student.
“When’s your flight?” I ask.
“I have to check,” he says.
“Wait. You have the ticket, don’t you?”
Now I’m the one who has to check. Yup. He’s right. I page through emails. I forward the necessary itinerary and boarding passes. It’s the Homecoming, Part Deux. He was here, he flew off, he’s returning.
“Train from the airport?
He likes to position himself in a central area of our small home, also known as the living room sofa. And for the most part, I enjoy it when he sleeps there. It’s an agreeable spot and he’s a considerate kid; he asked permission, and I said yes.
As I’m about to run through the litany of food options in preparation for grocery shopping prior to his arrival, the pause is longer than usual. A mother knows her pauses. This one is ominous.
Then: “I have to tell you something.”
Never a good opening phrase coming from your college kid.
“I couldn’t get a job,” he says.
This isn’t a surprise. I know he tried. We had discussed a Plan A and a Plan B, and even his targeted openings were few, unpublicized, most likely unpaid.
“You can still do freelance logo and graphic work if you can get it,” I say, which was the Plan C he had in mind.
I add: “I could also really use your help with some driving.”
I explain that a friend of the family is having surgery and will need assistance going back and forth to physical therapy. If my son isn’t working, he can chauffeur her twice a week and run my errands. He can help move some furniture, then put doors on a small room I’d like to clear out and re-purpose. In other words, he can be my architecturally-oriented handyman.
It may be the Fourth of July, but I’m not feeling sparkly or celebratory. Something more is going on.
“What is it?” I ask.
“I can’t drive right now,” he says.
I’ve got that same sinking feeling that struck when a pal of his called from a hospital Emergency Room. That was the summer after he graduated from high school, and only ten days before he was to fly off to college.
Hard lessons. So much is learned through hard lessons. Whatever it is this time, at least he’s talking.
“I broke my hand.”
“I would appreciate it if you were not upset.”
But I am upset.
“Your drawing hand?”
It’s my turn to speak, but I don’t know whether to voice curiosity, concern, or anger.
“How did you do it?”
“I punched a wall.”
I tell myself to take a deep breath, to stay calm, and not to open my mouth until I’m certain I won’t breathe fire.
“What did the doctor say?”
“It’s in a cast. The cast needs to come off in a couple of weeks. He says it will heal without a problem.”
Then he starts: “I put my fist through a wall but it’s kind of a funny story really, and I know it was dumb, but it was just something that happened and it has to do with a friend, and she hit her head and made a dent in the wall so she said but she didn’t actually dent the wall because the material was too strong, and I was just trying to show her that was the case. The small hole was there already, so to prove it, I punched the wall.”
“Now there are two holes in the wall,” he says. “The one she didn’t make, and the one I did.”
Architecture students. They’re constantly dreaming, designing, tweaking, trying, constructing, configuring, engaging, experimenting. So what was this – an interactive demonstration in materials usage?
He’s trying to reassure me – or head off maternal discontent, also known as a lecture. “It’s no big deal,” he continues. “I’ll be fine and I’m using the time to do other productive things.”
He elaborates on the ambiguous Other Productive Things and despite my annoyance, it appears that he has indeed identified several activities he can pursue that are productive, or at the least, a good learning experience. He’s become a creative problem-solver and for that, I’m grateful. I’ll be even more grateful if there’s no permanent damage to the hand, and for the moment, I can’t bring myself to ask for more detail.
I console myself with the fact that he sounds chipper and he says he’s in no pain. Then again, as my son’s schooling, his living, and his passions have to do with what his right hand can accomplish – both hands if you count his love of piano – the situation is disconcerting.
I ask a few more questions about what he can do, and he informs me he’s sketching even with the cast on, including a series of drawings with a pencil propped against the plaster.
My son isn’t blue, but I am.
And yes, when he arrives in a few days and I see his smile, it will pass.