Young love, first love

    It's been a blue couple of days in my house. On Thursday, Liz, my son's beloved, left to go to college. The two of them have been dating for almost a year. And what a year it was! She was a senior, and he was a junior — except that everyone thought he was senior because he was in mostly advanced classes and because he talks and acts like an adult.

    They went to Homecoming together, neither of them thinking anything romantic would come of it. But then over dinner, something just clicked. Liz told me she knew Ben was special when she realized they'd talked all through dinner and afterwards and had never had a single awkward silent moment.

    I watched my son fall head over heels crazy in love with this beautiful young woman, who also happened to be very smart and fun. I got used to having her in my house, cooking meals with us, joining us for dinner and such. I got used to her popping through the door all hours of the day. And when I say "popping" I mean "spring-loaded." My son would answer the door, knowing it was she, and she would fly through the door and land right in his arms. It made me so happy to see my son's love being returned with so much enthusiasm.

    Over the course of the year, they arranged many surprises for one another, some with my participation. Ben made her a teddy bear by hand using some pattern that existed in his imagination. The result was adorable. He snuck into her house while she was away and put it on her bed.

    For Valentine's Day, he and his friends spent weeks rehearsing songs for their girlfriends and planning a big dinner and decorations. They had their respective women "kidnapped," brought blind-folded to one of their houses, where dinner was cooking, flowers were on the table and the room was decorated with fairy lights. Then one by one, the boys sang "their" song to their own beloved while the other boys sang backup. They all played guitar. Ben sang "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol, putting his heart into the night even though he had a 102-degree fever. The girls were blown away. Afterwards, Ben pretty much collapsed and Mommy had to drive into Boulder at 6 AM to get him.

    There were dinners, surprise bouquets of flowers delivered in class, poems, photo albums filled with images of the two of them, a very romantic Prom, swing dance classes in which Ben learned how to lift Liz up, tilt her all the way back and kiss her, as he's doing in the photo above, taken two weeks ago. There were hikes, family dinners with the three of us and cakes spontaneously baked to surprise me. There were countless hours this summer of working on Ben's film, King of Hearts, a 1930s noir detective story in which Ben plays the detective and Liz plays the dangrous dame.

    Ben and Liz pose in costume for the Gangsta Bitches on the set of Ben's film

    So Thursday when Liz left was a very, very hard day in this house. Ben handled it very well. I took him out of school for the day and I stayed home from work. We had breakfast with Liz — and then we said goodbye to her. And, yes, I cried more than my son did. (The Gangsta Bitches are not surprised to hear this; they've seen my tear ducts in action. All tears, all the time.)

    I took Ben into the mountains so that he could have some space to reflect. There's something about mountains or the ocean that have the ability to swallow us and all of our sorrows. We went up to Boulder Falls, then drove on the Peak to Peak Highway, which, incidentally, is the highway Marc Hunter follows after his escape from prison. We stopped in Nederland — known locally as Ned — though we didn't bother to stop and visit Grandpa in the Tough Shed, the dead guy whose grandson put him on ice and who has been in deep freeze since the 1990s up there and has become the focus of the annual event Frozen Dead Guy Days. But I digress.

    Ben does his best Teddy Roosevelt pose in front of Boulder Falls, in the distant background.

    By the time we got home, we'd gotten a few text messages each from Liz. The bouquet of "bright, fucking pink" gladiolas she'd given me — hey, that's what she called them — were on the table. (Those kids were paying attention, Libby!) The chocolate cake she'd made for us the night before was sitting on the counter. We had steak and potatoes for dinner, then sat down to a slice of her cake with vanilla ice cream and watched Ben's favorite movie, Casablanca.

    Well, here's looking at you, kids.

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