Mundane happenings bring home flood of memories

Editor’s note: Surprise, columnist Janet Hommel Mangas! Her youngest daughter, Phoebe, whom she wrote about missing last week (“Always-made bed not same as mother, daughter loving talks,” Sept. 5), decided to write a response to her column.

To the author:

I read your article and had a few thoughts of my own. I myself am a college student, a sophomore, as is your youngest daughter. I wrote to maybe ease your mind and explain to you that your feelings do not go unreturned.

As a young adult, living on my own is exciting, but there are times when the novelty wears off and the reality sets in. It’s hard not to miss someone you’ve spent your whole life loving. No matter how much laughter is shared with your peers, nothing rivals the person you are when you’re with your family.

The pure hilarity that comes from conversations no one else would enjoy, the complete understanding of the people you don’t have to try to understand, the beauty (and convenience) of knowing every signal put out by those surrounding you — those are the things I’ve learned to miss while away. It’s even harder to realize how inadequate you are without them when it comes down to it, no matter how well they’ve prepared you.

The dream of being that independent, chill student who’s got so much going for them and has their life together just isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. All in all, it shows you how much you really need family. The get-togethers you can’t attend remind you that life continues without you. Triplets will grow up and will call your sisters’ names, cousins’ arms will heal before you’ll even see that cute little cast, the soul food will still disappear just as quickly, kids will still be chased around the yard, running eventually into someone else’s arms with a giggling, breathless “save me!”

People grow and things change no matter what you do with your time.

For me, when my mom tells me about the mundane happenings around the house, it draws many related recollections. When the dog catches a mole: I think of the times she has “gifted” them on the porch and how my sister wouldn’t touch her for a week, or the amount my family has laughed at the obnoxiousness of the ultrasonic mole repellers.

No detail of home comes without a flood of memories.

So, dear author, maybe you can take comfort in the fact that it goes both ways. I make my bed daily, thinking of how it must look empty without me there at home. I make the drive to get McAlister’s tea, because I like the taste of the times I have eaten there with family and friends. I sometimes put on the podcasts my mom listens to, because as much as they annoyed me at home, they comfort me here. They make me feel like she might be in the next room cleaning.

I listen to the blues and only the best of rock so I feel like my dad is pulling into the driveway. My friends jab me in the side so I feel like my sister is telling me she loves me in our weird nonverbal way. The Marketplace burns my toast so I can feel as if my mom is making my breakfast — right, happy memories. Whether your kid calls you twice in a weekend or forgets on others, don’t for a second think they’ve moved on and don’t need you.

Because sometimes, it’s confusing to miss those you hold dearly when you aren’t exactly sure of which things you’re missing. The dumb jokes, the jamming out in the car, the stupid faces, the sarcasm, the “business” meetings. It’s not one thing. It’s the sum of it all. The being. The constant community of having them by your side as you do life. The simplicity of seeing them whenever. The not needing to have the right words to say when you call them.

It’s better to do life with them than without them, but communicating that is hard sometimes. So please know, dear author, and any parent with their babies out of the nest, that we love you back. That we appreciate you. That you are missed.

Not to worry, we’ll always come back. Because there’s no place like home.

P.S. Don’t bother. I’ll see you this week.