I’m going for a drive in a few days. It’ll be a long one… over 3,000 miles long from Massachusetts to California. I’m going with my 13-year-old son and 73-year-old mother. I’m sandwiched exactly thirty years in between them both. What a gift. Perspective - the past and hopefully my future. This journey came about for a multitude of reasons but one very important one is that I've been warned that very shortly, like in the blink of an eye or so, this boy, my first born child, my only son, will be going off to high school and taking one more giant step away from me. His milestone is one for me as well, albeit for me one woven with a bit more melancholy than I’ll let him know. After all, this process of release, of life unfolding, has been years in the making. So when the opportunity arose or more accurately the idea came into my brain to spend nearly two weeks in a minivan with he and my mom - I lassoed that sucker.
I remember the day after we were released from the hospital on my son’s third day of life, I left him at home with his father and mine and went to the Pump Station in Santa Monica to get some nursing bras and supplies. It was a short trip, about an hour. I was unprepared for the dizzying tumble of emotions I’d feel on what seemed like a simple errand. It was the longest time I’d ever been apart from him since his little heart began beating so close to mine so many months before. A salesperson asked if she could help me. I said, “I need some things for my son.” For my son. “My - son…" I repeated. "I’m, I'm a mom,” I said to the bored salesperson. Wow. Those words hung out there in the air. I had a son. Could she see that? (Probably!) Did she see that a perfect gift from God had been given to me? Did she see how nothing about me or my life would ever again be as it was before? Could she see I had been given the gift, the responsibility of a, of my, child? The weight of all of it rose within me and my eyes welled up. I was completely overcome with the power, the beauty and the fragility of being a mom in this world with absolutely no guarantees and my tiny, helpless child was so far away from me. What was I doing in this store? How cruel it felt to be away from him! I felt nauseous. I needed to sit down. I blamed it on the birth, grateful for the pain in my body as it provided an excuse for my episode but more importantly served as a reminder of what I was a part of, of what my body could do. This was my first hour away from my son. Over the thirteen plus years since I’ve gotten better at it. I don’t burst into tears or babble to salespeople (well sometimes I can't help but toss out a brag or two) but I always carry him and his two sisters with me wherever, whenever, however I go. I’ve adjusted.
At breakfast this morning I asked my brilliant, creative son what is his passion in life. I’ve asked him before and his answer sometimes alters a bit but the sentiment remains the same. Now a teen, his answer is ever more succinct: He wants to travel around the world and meet new people. Always his answer has revolved around making connections with other people. And so he will. He must. And though I will miss him, in fact those words hardly do any justice to the missing of him that I will endure, that in some way I have been enduring for the more than thirteen years he’s been outside of me, I know that he is not mine to hold onto. He is not mine to hold back. I know that he was given to me to share. And so I will. I must. But, for the present, for these couple of weeks that he and my mother, (who a few decades back allowed and encouraged me to spread my own wings) and me will journey together across this great country. He wants to travel and I can help him with that right now. And all the way I will breathe in the beauty of this boy/man that I’ve had the incredible privilege to know. I'm a bit nervous - I will be wrestling with the pangs of knowing I'll have never ever been away from my two beautiful daughters for as long. There's always FaceTime, right? Oh my heart... But, my son is the oldest. It's his time, our time, right now. And he's pretty entertaining. His teen boy observations of the world are poignant, funny, honest, human, him. I have and continue to learn so much from him. He will bond and have an experience with myself and with my mother. He will never forget it. And I recognize that that is my gift, the one that God blessed me with when He gave me this child that would be mine for all of eternity but never mine to keep. As we celebrate this time of year when God blessed us with His son I think about the giving, the love and the pain of parenthood. I’ve been the recipient of the giving and generosity of my parents and in turn I will fight through my tears and my fear of this unsafe world and I will continue to push my son into manhood and watch as he walks - no, flies - away from me. He will. And I must.
And I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to do so.
I’ve watched more Hallmark Christmas movies this season than I care to admit. My husband asked me why. Of course he did. But, I thought about it and the truth is I think sometimes, when I’m feeling just a bit fragile - and this year has a lot of us feeling that way - it really helps to escape some place where love prevails over all and every ending is happy because that is the world that I wish I was watching my child walk into, knowing in my heart that it isn’t. And knowing, too, that with every stumble, with every fall he will rise better and more compassionate than before and more the man he is destined to be. Like these 3,000 miles we are about to head down he will have good weather and bad, highs and lows, excitement and lulls but it's important, necessary, to always keep moving forward. And I'll be right there with him through it all.