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Tears on My Pillow

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Last evening when I was supposed to be doing something else like cooking supper—which I almost forgot about anyway—I found myself outside under the tall pines sitting in my favorite place thinking. Not what I usually do there. Usually I read, sip wine, snooze, or just watch the breeze tumble and toss itself like a ball from tree top to tree top (a kinder cousin of the cruel squalls that ripped the crowns off of the pines last September).


I had a lot to think about. Watching the wind is easier, but I looked back at my day instead. There were things to do, things to plan, things to follow up on. Checklist in one hand, telephone tucked in my neck, Macbook chugging and surfing, I was conquering institutions and people, mowing them down, barreling through them, or just beating them up with a triple big stick of flawless logic, smart mouth, and short-tempered, finger-snapping bitchiness. I was in full-assault competency mode—my antidote, my balm, my cure for too much emotion. Give me a soul-sucking to–do list and I’ll worry about what is bothering me tomorrow.


Honing in on what is bothering me… in two weeks I will drop my son at college for a pre-orientation orientation. He is participating in a three-day diversity, leadership skills, wilderness, cheerleading rah-rah camp or something like that. All I know is that it means I let go of him three days sooner than…well, sooner than I would have.


Back to the things to do. Alex and I spent the afternoon yesterday shopping for his dorm room. Still a little chubby-cheeked from his wisdom teeth surgery and overdosed on milkshakes and oreo pudding, he was like putty in my hands. My mission was to buy his bed linens and not just any bed linens: the best sheets, pillows, and blankets I could find. There is a very practical reason for this, I told him—he is one of the worst in a long line lousy sleepers, so a comfy bed is important.


We headed to Macy’s, commandeered a small, skinny, easily-intimidated sales victim and went to work. He suggested, I rejected. Didn’t Macy’s have a higher thread count, softer cotton for my little prince? No, but they did have camo sheets, or dinosaurs, or dainty pink flowers. As it turns out, evidently, there is limited demand for 600-thread count sheets for twin beds, and we would have to turn the store upside down to find something suitable. The hunt was on and our poor little sales clerk was at a loss. Me? I can smell luxury like some overly-coddled, manor-born bloodhound; my fingertips are so expertly sensitive to the feel of good sheets, that I could be fluent in Braille. We (really me, Alex was a little befuddled by the whole process) finally stumbled across, all on our own, 400 thread count sheets in reasonable colors. Ignoring the samples behind me, I tore open the package and said what do you think and Alex pronounced them good enough, better than good enough really. Next—pillows.


I revived our sales clerk and sent him off with orders to find the best pillows Macy’s could muster. He came back, a little too quickly, with two that wouldn’t do. I sighed and realized that he required my vision and supervision. My son, I said to him, needed down pillows: one soft and one medium. The gentleman, fearful that I may lop off his head at any moment, began going through the mile high rack of “the best down pillows” and tossed out a medium, but soft was no where to be found.


Fortunately, almost by magic, another customer appeared and he had to excuse himself. Undaunted, I dove into the pillow pile. There was work to be done and I was just the mother to do it. And there it was—a king size soft down pillow that would work beautifully with his standard size medium pillow. In another dizzying, Tasmanian devil-like fifteen minutes, I nabbed the best pillow top, comforter, and light (cashmere? Not quite) blanket in the store. Alex would most certainly have the snuggliest bed in the whole dorm. I brushed myself off, straightened my glasses, rearranged my clothes, and handed our thrilled sales clerk my Macy’s card. Mission accomplished.


On the way home, I explained to Alex that while he was attending orientation functions and making new friends, I would be in his dorm room expertly making his bed. I could see his room in my mind’s eye and could feel the softness of his bedding and picture how I would fluff his pillows and then position them just so. I would tuck the blanket in all around, military smooth, and then fold the comforter neatly back on the foot of his bed. I am sure I would even produce small chocolates for his pillow.


Only later, when I was under the pines did I realize what I was really doing; what deep, maternal instinct had placed a hidden hand on my shoulder, guiding me. My son is leaving my nest. He will be off on his own. Wouldn’t a good mother help him build his own nest, maybe even build it for him so that it is just right, that it is suitable, that it will feel comfortable and familiar, a little bit like home?


That is what I was thinking out under the pines last night when there was no breeze.

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