This morning when I come downstairs to do last night’s dishes, I pass my son’s open door. His mattress is up against the wall. The bookshelf is full of his discarded clothes. His snowboard boots are in the corner against a shelf. On top of the shelf are his bagged linens and two wool coats I doubt he’ll want, packaged for Goodwill. In the closet and under the desk are boxes of books and notes, castoffs from his desk. I put all this away when the electricians came this summer so it wouldn’t be covered in dust. The boy has barely returned since last Christmas holidays. He traveled for Spring vacation with his frisbee team. For summer he worked at school. When he was home, he visited mostly with his dad. This past weekend, instead of coming home the night of a nearby tournament, he stayed there in a hotel with his team.

For the last two years, I lived with his door shut. I wanted his mattress protected from the cat. This summer when the heat was horrid, I opened the door for circulation. Since the mattress was upended for the workers, I didn’t worry about the cat. Now, though, walking by the room’s a little haunting. Facing reality is like that. The moving on is quiet sometimes, shut up behind closed doors.

I saw a lot of Ben the first year of college. We went to Parents’ Weekend. He came home for long weekends and spring break, lay around the house both winter and summer vacations with his girlfriend until I almost wondered when they’d go. The launching surprised me this year. In February or March I found my guy on Facebook playing frisbee in California. I said sure to his plans to go Georgia for Spring Break. We talked on the phone to sort out last minute plans for him to work and live at college for the summer. Then I rushed to buy a car so he could have the van. All summer I wondered if our family vacation would include him,finding out last minute it would only be one night, and that night would be late.

The tidiness is a lot to take. I felt good at first to go through the bags against the wall, to sort out the q-tips from the books, to take the coats off the backs of the doors and put them into bags, to send the things he needs, so little, back with his gal last Sunday, to organize the remainders on the shelves and in the closet before starting my day with the other two kids.

Yesterday my boy texted during afternoon meeting in the day care to tell me the van, which was dead this weekend, lives. As predicted by my friend Michael, whose engineering son took their old van off to college, my son and his gal and his engineer friend fixed our van themselves, jumped it first, then bought and installed a new battery. Now the van runs fine. Better him than me dealing with the dead battery. Better me than him driving the new car.

As I clear out the toys, I imagine a place for the kids who someday visit. My grandma had a box of dishes in her cellar. We’d bring them up or play on the cement floor. My mom has boxes of toys in her basement, some in the bedroom upstairs, others in the garage and barn. My basement floods. I haven’t got an attic or a garage or a barn, so I’m thinking, where will those toys go? Who will come to play, now my kids are teens and near adults, the after school program is done upstairs, my nephews are grown or far away, the grandkids are a long way off? It’s strange to have a home without children, after nearly twenty years with lots, even if the day care downstairs is toy heaven, and kids come in and out forty eight weeks a year.