Paying it Forward

“We probably won’t get there ’til one or two. And we’ll be reeking of cigarette smoke,” he said. “So I apologize in advance. We really appreciate this.” My son had asked if his friend’s band could stay the night. They had a gig in town and no place to sleep. Thrilled to pay forward the generosity friends and family have bestowed upon my daughter in recent months, I welcomed the chance to repay even a bit of hospitality karma. And so once again our house is filled with young people, if only overnight.

They arrived between three and four, quiet as a resting beat but I heard them anyway. A mother’s ear never sleeps. I went down to greet them. They did indeed reek of cigarette smoke. “Help yourselves to whatever you need,” I said, trying to remember all their names before I headed back up to sleep. I’d left banana bread and fruit on the counter and had two loaves of challah on hand to make French toast for breakfast.

They came down one by one, rumpled by sleep and the aftermath of performing. Together since high school The Pinstripes play a mixture of ska and reggae. Downing OJ and French toast they shared road stories of opening for larger bands and performing before thin crowds and sell-out audiences. They endure the struggles of the creative life: earning enough to cover expenses, trying to gain notice; ruing the fact that the Lady Gagas of the performance world grab all the oxygen.

The house makes noises I haven’t heard in ages — a forgotten floor creak in the hallway outside my daughter’s room. The quiet bump of wood against wood as my son’s door closes. The drummer returned to sleep after breakfast, a great hill of boy beneath the quilt. No one has slept past one in this house since forever.

They are jamming now; strains of sax, trumpet and trombone filter through the house, brassy notes running up and down the stairs like teenagers with somewhere to go. For all the bittersweet tone in this entry, it is a joy to have a crowd of kids in the house again. To be in the presence of the energy and plans, the sweetness and even the occasional blue language. And of course, the pile of shoes by the back door.

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15 thoughts on “Paying it Forward

  1. Christy

    Ah Debra- the pile of shoes in the foyer is perhaps my favorite sign that all is right with the world. I hope you heaped those boys with extra love and yummy food. It will sustain them further than you realize. 🙂

  2. Cindy La Ferle

    Ah, your beautiful post brings sighs of recognition, happiness to this empty nester. How wonderful to have those guys in your life! Hope you will stop by for the latest poetry appreciation installment… I think you’ll relate!

  3. Michele Dunham

    The missing shoes in the foyer were some of the things that I noticed when we became empty nesters. My kids thought that was so funny when I mentioned how much fun it was to have shoes back in the foyer when we had a bunch of young folks in the house. So pleased to know that other moms share this with me.
    Thanks for the memory!

  4. Debra

    You are so welcome, Michele. Yeah, I don’t know what it is about the shoes. Maybe b/c we always tripped over them none too happily, it’s one of those Big Yellow Taxi things (am I dating myself or what?) that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

  5. Leah Rubin

    Good for you– your generosity is lovely, though I suspect you feel you got more than you gave.

    The empty nest is indeed bittersweet, and the punctuation of the noisy, frantic, chaotic visits tilt that more to the sweet!

    Thanks for posting this!

  6. Cindy Frenkel

    What a sweet night, and so lovingly stated, Debra. Yes, the shoes by the back door is a wonderful image, as is the reference to how we mothers never sleep soundly until everyone’s home, and our “mother’s ears” are always listening. What a protective measure!

  7. Cousin Gary

    By the sheer overuse of the phrase “Empty Nesters” I take it there is no single word in the English language to describe any warm loving home that has become void of it’s former child occupants. But without the children is it a nest? Makes me think it is parental, not romantic love that gave rise to “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” As I am up on the perch, about to watch the first hatchling go off to . . . dare I type . . . college (ouch that hurt!) you’ve made me begin conteplation of the changing nest. Thanks for making me think of shoe piles, and clothes piles, and wood creaks and door slams, and emptied refrigerators as the sights and and sounds of love that I will miss when they eventually disappear. Despite our littlest ones promise to live with us forever, I will cherish these markers hence with the knowledge and dread that eventully their lives will be lived elsewhere.

  8. Elissa Schwartz

    Keying in on the pile of shoes near the back door is classic and so perfect for expressing the presence of the “children” again being at home, Debra. Over the semester college break, I experienced the recurrence of events that I have not had since last summer, including Jared’s, Stephanie’s and their friends’ mountain of shoes that grew daily in the back hallway. I did trip more than once, but these days the tripping brings smiles of reminiscence, rather than chagrin. It also felt good to see numerous cars aligned in the driveway for a couple of weeks, reminding me of the high traffic that used to fill not only the driveway, but the rooms of the house as well. It is quiet here again these days and there is only emptiness in the back hall. I no longer trip, but I also do not smile as much as I cross the back hall to the laundry room. Come to think of it, there is not much laundry these days either. Now that I like!

  9. Me2

    Debs, reminds me of the few times I hosted large groups of college guys traipsing thru town! Feeding them was so much fun! 5 always ate like 10 and 10 like 20! The sounds that fill the house seem so far removed, I almost forget what it’s like! Now it’s fridge, icemaker and keyboard clicking away! Not the same! XOXO,L

  10. Only the Half of It

    Love it… beautifully descriptive but also I just can feel the energy these guys brought into the house. How fun for you. I hope their band makes it, in whatever way they want that to be.
    Thanks for such a lovely post!

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