It struck me hard several days after our elder son left for college: One of the four holes in our toothbrush holder was empty, and it would remain that way. I think I cried my first big tears over his departure that morning. And that toothbrush holder became a metaphor for the new dynamic in our home. We are still a family, of course, and it’s not like he’s gone forever, but there is a hole. Our daily life goes on with only three of us, not four. I’ve come to realize this is not bad, exactly–there have been real blessings in our new threesome–but it is different.
Last night, our son returned home for fall break, his first time back in our house since August. After getting ready for bed, he placed his toothbrush in its rightful place in the plastic holder. I smiled at seeing the empty hole filled. But his toiletries bag also sat on the bathroom counter–a reminder that his presence in this house is temporary. He’ll be leaving again soon.
Last week, for his university’s Family Weekend, we spent some time in his dorm, he showed us around campus, and we met his friends, several of whom joined us for lunch. It’s clear he is making his home there–his toothbrush has a new rightful place in his dorm room (even if that place seems to be wherever he tosses it on a bookshelf instead of in a proper toothbrush holder). This is how it should be; it’s what parents hope for. Yet, it’s bittersweet to think that our house, here with Mom and Dad and Brother, will only become less and less his home throughout this year and into the future.
And in a couple years, our younger son will venture off to college, too, creating another shift in our family dynamic. Sigh. We might have to buy a new two-hole toothbrush holder.