It was August 22nd, the first day of school. Both our sons were up and at ‘em, tossing their gear into their North Face bags to walk the few blocks to the hallowed halls of Charlottesville High. I stood in the kitchen, making breakfast, watching (and hearing) these two broad-shouldered, beasts of young men move heavy around the house. I could not for the life of me remember how they’d gone from riding atop my shoulders to looking like young Norsmen ready to defend home and honor.
But Norsmen are hungry, so I toasted the garlic, salt and sesame bagels, spread them thick with cream cheese. I blended the strawberries, banana and peanut butter into a smoothie, sneaking a handful of frozen spinach into the Vitamix when no one was looking. Next, I packed lunch in a brown paper bag: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fudge-dipped granola bar, clementine, a bag of kettle-cooked potato chips. I thought of slipping a note into the lunch bag, as I have several times in years previous. A simple message: I love you or I’m praying for you or Knock ‘em dead.
I considered the note because this is what my mom did for me. Even when I was in grad school, my mom would wake early before I had to leave, pack me a lunch and slip in a note scribbled on her flowery stationery. She’d tell me she loved me and was pulling for me. Does it seem odd for a mom to pack a lunch for a grown man? Maybe, but the memory is one I hold tight, even now when I have sons of my own and years after my mom lost her fight with cancer.
This is why, even though these two strapping boys are more than capable of managing their own food, you’ll find me spreading raspberry jam and sliding sandwiches into Ziploc bags. Our sons are taking courses like German and Pre-Calc. They’re both taller than me, stronger than me. Under the Friday night lights, they’re fierce, and one of them lines up in the trenches against 300lb behemoths. And they’re quite a duo. Recently, when the two of them strolled into their football coach’s office, he looked up and said, “Well, there’s the Collier boys, just in from bringing moonshine down the mountain.” But these are our boys, and we only have them stomping their big bodies around the house for a short time more. I only get to toast bagels and pack lunches for a brief season. I only get to love them in this particular way for a bit more. These are precious days, moving fast.
So I stood at the sink and felt my eyes go moist. There’s just never enough time, it seems. College looms. Life grows. And it’s all beautiful, exactly as it should be. But these moments are the gift we have today, and I want to imbibe this moment fully. And I want to remember every bit of it.