Break’s Over


 Ben went back to college today. He’s been home since the first week of December.  I forget how much his presence changes the dynamics of our family.  He takes on responsibility that doesn’t usually fall on the shoulders of a college student.  Ben cleans the house while he’s home and keeps it that way, washing dishes, scrubbing floors, toilets and tubs.  He makes his little brother clean up after himself and won’t let him leave dirty dishes under the bed. Ben did some of these things before he left for college, but not to the extent that he does now.  I think maybe he’s finding his own sense of organization and wants it to rub off on the rest of us who aren’t nearly so organized.  Our homework is to keep the house straight until Spring Break.  We will not succeed. Our grade will be a paultry D+.

    Ben makes plans for us when he’s home.  He scheduled family dinners with grandparents, making sure that the get-togethers were held at each grandma’s house so he could enjoy their home cooking and attention lavished especially on him.  He chose the menus, Country Ham, creamed potatoes, green beans, sweet potato casserole, corn pudding, homemade biscuits,  iced tea and pound cake at Grandma T’s,  Barbeque Spare Ribs, scalloped potatoes, tossed salad, pickled beets, homemade yeast rolls, lemonade and egg custard pie at Maw-Maw’s house.  The boy knows how to pull on the “I’ll do it” strings of his grandmothers.

     Ryan cried when Ben left.  The two of them wrestle, beat on each other, yell, fight over video games, laugh, joke, play together in the snow and pile into Ben’s car to ride for fast food and scope out girls at the mall. Ryan hangs out with Ben’s friends, all college age, and they accept him like he belongs to the pack.  There is six years between the boys, but they are closer than any two brothers I know.  Their Great-Grandmother would be proud. She encouraged them to “love each other,” because “one day they would be all that is left of the rest of us.”  Ryan got the “work hard” at school pep talk from his brother, because “College is fun and Mom and Dad aren’t going to send you if you aren’t going to study and take it seriously.”  Ryan said, “ok,” but rolled his eyes.

     While he was home, his Dad changed the oil in Ben’s car, put in new brake shoes, and wiper blades and had the bucket of bolts inspected.  Bruce ordered new tags and registration and checked the spare tire for air.  In return, Ben chopped and stacked some wood, helped deliver several loads of mulch and compost and helped bleed the brakes in his Dad’s truck.  I think they’re even now.

     As for me, I got heaping helpings of hugs from the bear of a boy. I’m tall and he towers over me at 6’6″. I have to stand on tip toes to hug him around his neck. His body takes up whole rooms of space. His smile warms cold places.  As old and as big as he is, he continues to crave body to body contact with his family. We learn all over again, how close we are when Ben comes home. 

     Every semester, I look forward to him coming home, but after 3 a.m. foragings in the refrigerator, keeping his little brother up way past bedtime on school nights, unending telephone calls from his girlfriend, and lectures on housekeeping, I look forward to him going back to college. He’s been gone seven and a half hours now and I can’t wait for Spring Break. March is a long way away.


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