My bedroom door swings open.
"Jamie, please knock next time," my husband tells our 12 1/2 year old.
A shrug. "So, you want to know something weird?"
This is one of Jamie's lead-ins. He appears most nights, often remembering to knock, after the other kids are asleep. Sometimes he has a specific question ("Can you give me a ride home from soccer tomorrow?") but most of the time, he's just...there.
Adam gets annoyed, feeling that our grown-up time is being whittled away at with questions that are lead no where or seem, to the naked eye, a way to delay bed.
I disagree. Jamie's at that point where he's thrilled to walk into town with a friend or walk the dog by himself (no small feat as the dog is now 110 lbs) or, as he did last weekend, take the train all alone to his grandparents (2.5 hours away).
But he's also desperate to connect. To know we're still here, that we always will be.
One of my favorite short stories is by Raymond Carver and, at the end, a boy and his father are saying goodnight. The dad goes to close his son's door but "thinks better of it" and leaves it open partyway.
Isn't that what we want? To have the door -- emotional and physical -- open so that our kids can go with the surety they may always return?
Last night, Jamie flopped down next to me and asked, "So, who did you take to the prom?"
I told him about my junior prom and my fantastic gay prom date who flew all the way from Texas in his tux and kept me amused the whole epically long boat dance. I shared that I never had the typical American prom experience with a limo or romantic date. My senior prom was to much drama -- the boy who asked me wasn't up for going as just friends (though he did later introduce me to my husband). So I went with a girl friend and had a blast dancing with everyone. Jamie's five years from his senior prom -- if he has one or wants to go - but to brush off a question is to miss out on the statement. All of the questions -- can you get from from soccer, will you show me something funny on line, did you have pimples, who was your prom date -- boil down to one simple truth: can we be close?
My door is always open, even when it's closed. Should you knock? Absolutely. But the openness we set up early on gives the pattern for what we hope for later. If we are not available now because we're tired, need alone time, want only grown-up conversation, we won't magically get an 18-year-old who's excited to bond, who flops down next to us in bed and regales us with stories.
I'm not saying we don't need marriage time -- sex, conversation, reading next to each other without interruptions. We do. But this kind of knocking is different than the toddler who needs more water.
When Jamie was little, he would talk and sing for an hour before drifting to sleep. We could listen on the baby monitor as he tried out new words (he'd pinch his nose with his tiny fingers and practice saying 'tortellini' and laugh). Now his thoughts are internal, his songs reserved for iPod and singing in the car, at chorus practice. But he chooses to share sometimes. Sometimes all he wants is silence and the knowledge that the door remains ajar.
It is. It will be. See you tonight.
Grandma Ruth's Whole Grain Pumpkin Bread
Grandma's original recipe follows, along with healthier substitutions you can make without sacrificing the flavor. However, try it both ways and see what you think. This recipe makes two loaves. You can cook them in bread pans (greased) or, as she did, in a couple of greased coffee cans (the small ones, not the big ones). This bread freezes very well and is good to have on hand for breakfasts or slathered with cream cheese for breakfast or lunch. This recipe is as she wrote it for me years ago, in her elegant soon-to-be-obsolete script. It includes the following: this is not for every day! So what if it might not be that good for you...it will always be delicious.
1 cup oil [sub in: 2/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup apple sauce]
3 cups sugar [cut by half]
4 eggs [cut by half]
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups pumpkin (about one can)
1 cup water
3 ½ cups flour [2 1/2 whole wheat, 1 white]
2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup raisins (optional, can also use dried cranberries)
1 ½ tsp. nutmeg
Put your oven to 350. Mix oil, sugar, and eggs until smooth. Blend in water, spices, and pumpkin. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt and raisins (if desired). Combine and mix batter. Pour into greased tins and bake for one hour. You might also make muffins, which take about half the time. Eat one and freeze the other or leave your door open and see who wanders in for a piece.
*Does this post have to do with pumpkin bread? Um...not really. But this is Grandma Ruth's recipe as promised.