Luca came for a home visit last weekend. He flew in from boarding school and spent Mother’s Day weekend with Franny and me.
He arrived in time for Franny’s school performance. Prince and his wife Sarah were there and I remembered what it was like two years ago, when Luca graduated from 6th grade and refused to speak to me. I sat up in the bleachers then, while Prince and his parents sat in the front row, victorious that I had been edged to the margins. Although, really, I had always been there, even during the marriage.
It was the nadir of my life.
But this day was different. Luca acknowledged Prince and Sarah, but sat next to me and my babysitter, who had picked him up from the airport. We watched Franny in her long skirt and bonnet as she shared what it was like to be a mother in the old west.
I snuck sidelong glances at Luca, who fiddled with his baseball cap and I thought, truly, this was a miracle. That only two years after the apocalypse, Luca and I would be sitting side by side, like any mother and son.
Atticus cleared out for the weekend so it could be just the three of us. Luca asked me how long it had been since he had spent the night at our house and I couldn’t remember.
I had given him a schedule of activities before he arrived so he would know what to expect, and to prevent negotiations. Initially, he balked at the computer restrictions and the fact that I wouldn’t let him run wild through the city streets with friends I hadn’t met. But he accepted the terms with a minimum of grousing.
He was nervous at first. So was I. We danced around each other slightly, skirting arguments that might be lurking. Franny was just pleased as punch to have her brother home.
We went to Chinatown.
We threw coins in the fountain. Franny’s landed in the “vacation” bowl. Mine landed in the “wealth” bowl. Luca’s missed altogether. I told him I’d share my wealth with him. He grinned.
We ate at our favorite restaurant, an airy Vietnamese place in the art district, with huge canvases hung on white walls.
We ordered Shaken Beef, like we always do.
Luca entertained us blowing his boba up and down through his straw.
The next day was Mother’s Day. We went to brunch at another airy restaurant, this one near the beach.
You can’t see me, but I was there. Franny was sitting on my lap.
This was the appetizer Luca and I ordered: a thin slice of mango nestled in radicchio, accompanied by a fat dollop of bufalo mozarella, all doused with lemon and salt. It was divine.
Franny had pancakes. Luca had crab hash. I had salmon.
This was my drink. It was a cranberry mimosa. It was ridiculously good. I gave both the kids sips. They liked it.
Afterwards we headed down to the boardwalk. We passed rollerboarders, bikers and skateboarders. We listened to musicians, watched breakdancers. We marveled at sand artists as they sculpted a mermaid.
We made our way down to the water.
I sat on a towel in the sand and watched Luca and Franny ride their boogie boards through the surf.
We made it through the entire visit without an argument. Luca did, however, argue with his dad over the phone. I felt a perverse jolt of delight and tried hard not to show it.
Franny and I dropped Luca off at the airport Monday morning. I wondered how it happened — how did it happen — that my son was suddenly fourteen, and able to walk through security and get to the gate on his own.
Franny and I watched him walk down the cordoned aisle towards security. He glanced over his shoulder three times to make sure we were still there. We waved back.
And then he was gone.
And so was the past. The years of explosions and melt-downs and head-banging and I-hate-you-you’ve-ruined-my-lifes. For now, it had washed away.
And there was just this. This life. Now.