The Boy and the Wagon

Written By: Laurie Brownstein

This fourth of July he missed the fireworks at the Devon beach, around the corner from our Amagansett home. We’ve gone every single year since he was born to us 19 years ago. Hunter had had an injury 5 days after getting home from his freshman year of college and his recuperation prevented him from working; he was depressed and aimless, so his Dad and I sent him to L.A. to visit his brother. The trip cheered him up so much that he decided to stay through the 4th of July weekend. I was disappointed that our tradition was going to end, but I kept that to myself. I was happy that he was happy. What’s that expression? You’re only as happy as your saddest child, I think it is.
After our annual clambake, which is really just an excuse to eat lobster with a few clams thrown in the pot along with corn and potatoes, we got our bottle of wine, glasses, ice and a blanket and headed to the beach. We didn’t bring the wagon; there was no previous cargo this year. As we walked toward Abrahams Landing, we could see that there weren’t as many cars parked on the streets as usual. We hit the beach, set up our blanket and poured ourselves some wine. The fireworks started, but this was the first year I can remember them being disappointing because of the hazy night sky.

But was it really just the weather that disappointed me that night? I kept thinking about all the years I tucked my little boy into his red wagon, put his light blue security blanket with the satin edge and a bottle in with him and pulled the wagon to the beach so he could watch the fireworks with us. He sat on my lap, a little afraid of the “fire”, as he called it, and it was warm and snuggley with him on my lap. I could smell him whenever I wanted to. I miss those days.

Now he’s 6 feet tall and has a beard. I still like to smell him, but try not to let him know when I’m doing it. When he’s away at school, I pass his room a lot and look in. It’s awfully neat in there; it doesn’t look like it did when he was in high school and it was his lair. I didn’t think I’d miss the messy look of it, but those socks on the floor and wet towels were signs that he’d just been there and would be back there soon. Not like now.

When I’m really missing him, I go in there and sit on his bed. Sometimes I smell his pillow, hoping there’s still some smell of him on it. Even when there is, though, it’s not much of a help. It’s just a reminder that he’s not there to hug. I know that to be a good Mom, I have to let him go, to grow up and become independent; to allow him and help him to spread his wings and make his own way in the world. After we’d helped move him into his college dorm room and it was time to say good bye and fly back East, it felt so odd. This child had been with me his entire life except for 2 weeks at sleep away camp he didn’t really like and some weekends away with friends. I’d taken care of him always, he’d been with me always, and now I’d brought him to a strange place, far away from home and I was leaving him there. I knew it was best, that he’d gotten accepted into a great program and would love it and have a great college experience, but that didn’t mean I had to like it.

Now he’s home for the summer and we play Monopoly like we always used to at the dining room table; he asks me to come sit next to him so he can show me funny videos on his phone. We talk about girls and all the things we always did. Now I’m used to him being with me again, seeing him all the time, smelling him. I’m dreading him leaving for his sophomore year at school because I know I’ll be depressed all over again and have to once again adjust to the new normal.