It happened again. I wake with my sheets wound round me, legs akimbo, pulse spazzy. I’m fresh from a fight with something I know I can’t beat. It’s 4 a.m. and everyone else in the family is asleep. Our bedrooms are close and through thin walls, I hear my kids not stirring. Not flopping around on creaky springs. Not doing battle as I am.
Downstairs, our living quarters amble generously through wide-open rooms, but upstairs our three small bedrooms are smooshed side by side by side like hideaway nests. Perched above the bustling world with its snapping predators, careless traffic, and vexing noise, the cozy tree house where we slumber in proximity is quiet and still. Warm and laundry-scented. Closely knit.
For literally thousands of mornings, I’ve opened my eyes to the sunlit, soul-settling certainty that the people who matter most to me are within earshot of a groggy-but-grateful “G’ morney!” Even when I wake from pre-dawn nightmares, their collective presence offers deep and immediate comfort. It’s an absolute: As sure the sun will rise, my boys are near me, curled up, tucked in, at ease and at peace.
But that’s about to change. My son Stone, the subject of my very first column 16 years ago, leaves for college across the country in two weeks. All summer, friends have been checking in. “Soooo … are you OK?” Yeah! “Freaking out?” Naw, I’m good! Exciting times! So stoked for him! All under control! Let’s do this!