Monday, June 13, 2011

Return of The Dude

It always takes me about one full week to adjust to summer.

Huh? you ask. Adjust to what? Sunshine and warmth? Fresh vegetables from the market, flowers in the garden, grilling, school’s out … ah.

Yes. School’s out. That’s it.

All the glories of summer in Maine aside, my head and my schedule have to make a tremendous adjustment each June to Teens at Home. Large bodies, fairly inert except for trips to the refrigerator, filling the house, filling the couch, filling the bed until long after noon … It knocks me off track, I’ll confess, especially since I’ve had ten months of quiet days to write, with only the dog making demands for the occasional walk.

In all fairness, I’m not describing my daughter, who is a veritable dervish most of time, and even when she is “relaxing” is productive in her art room, or trotting off to the library for a new book on tape, or going to her summer job or heading with friends to the beach. She’s actually the kid we entreat to watch more television, maybe play a few rounds of Angry Birds on the iPad.

No, I’m talking about The Dude, who has returned from college. Where, reportedly, he functioned. He got up and went to class and, judging from the grades he received, did the reading and learned something. He did laundry. He went to meals, joined clubs, made friends. In other words: The Dude was alive.

But then, year over, he returned to the nest.

“So what’s with the vegetative state?” little sister asked me, upon his return. The contents of his dorm room were still strewn about his room, which did not smell good. Which was probably due to the fact that the door remained closed well into the early afternoon, as he slept.

“What happened last night?” his father asked me, when, his day beginning at 2:00 in the afternoon, after his beauty rest and shower, The Dude met up with friends and returned loudly home at 1:30 A.M. It sounded like thieves had broken into the house and were ransacking the refrigerator.

I don’t why everyone expects me to have the answers to these questions.

“What happened?” I asked The Dude. “Did you have a lobotomy when no one was looking?”

“Huh?” was the reply. Truly, he was perplexed.

While there may well be no answer to this problematic question of why and how young people, who fully function as adults out of the parental home, manage to completely regress once back in the bosom of their families, there is a solution: The Summer Job.

In The Dude’s case, this is quite a job. Not only will he leave the parental nest once again and relocate to an island in Maine, but he will be responsible for a camp’s worth of boys for six solid weeks. He’ll be a camp counselor/tennis instructor/trip leader, taking boys into the woods or down Maine’s rivers for days at a time.

He will not only get himself up and jump in the lake at 7:30 every morning, but he will get The Little Dudes up. He will not only keep his tent clean and his stuff organized, he will entreat Little Dudes to do likewise. He will nag. He will remind. He will instruct.

He will know how it feels to push molasses up a mountain. And yes, I’m enjoying this.

Best of all, for six weeks, The Dude’s focus will be on someone else. Instead of being taken care of, he’ll do the caretaking. Instead of “self actualizing” he’ll help others come into their own, make friends, learn new skills. He’ll work to keep them safe and help them have a memorable summer.

I really can't think of a better way for him to spend his time right now.

So, tonight’s the farewell dinner and movie with The Dude, then he’s off. Little sister, The Dervish, will still be home, so life’s not quiet … but it’s not sponge life, either.

The New York Times had a great feature about teens finding summer jobs this season, which we all know is no easy thing in this economy. Take a look. I particularly enjoyed the kid in the carrot suit.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Sistah! Can my dudes join your dude for six weeks? You got the teenage dude description exactly right. May I add one word: OY!