It is one of those moments in parenting. I know it is. Not because I have felt these feelings before but because they are so strong that they must signal “one of those moments”. He is 18, healthy, vigorous and fiercely autonomous. He always has been. When he was 4, he would negotiate to be able to walk for a block by himself on the way home from daycare. He loved being on his own in the world. When he was 6 he went to camp for the first time and just glowed when we came to pick him up–he looked like he had matured a year or two in 6 days. Autonomy looked good on Ben. When he was 9 he would take his time walking home from school, exploring alleyways and bringing home treasures for his room like broken chairs and discarded hub caps. Every year, his most cherished experiences would be away at camps.He would blossom in those two weeks and come back more grounded, more sociable, more beautiful, more responsible.
When he was born, I held him in my arms and I remember saying to him that I would always love him and bring him up to leave me. I said that he was mine but not mine. And today he is off!
Today he left for two months. Not to a cushy structured place where his days are planned, but rather into the expanse of long days and nights of freedom and responsibility, with some vague plan of landing in the Okanagan Valley to pick fruit. He has a backpack, a travel guitar, a water gourd and a buddy named Charlotte. And they are off!
He has a cell phone and a map and he should be fine right? They’ve got power bars and nuts and a tarp. They’ll be ok, right? They have big cover all rain coats and flashlights and access to some cash. I am sure they will be fine. People I like a lot have told me they would pick them up in a flash. Wouldn’t you? Look at them.
So this is what I’m gonna do. I am going to train my brain to think thoughts of Ben and his bud having fabulous encounters, playing cards in cafes and beside rivers, discovering the beauty of the great lakes, the prairies and the Rockies, getting pleasure out of washing their pits in a gas station bathroom and cooking on an open fire. It’s gonna be an awesome adventure–one that I wish I had had.
And when he comes back in two months, he’s gonna be changed. I know it. I am looking forward to seeing him then.
In the meantime, I will imagine him free and resourceful and be grateful for every little text message he sends.
Wow! I’ve got tears in my eyes. This will be wonderful for him…it’s a tribute to you and Bruce that he is able to experience this. Many 18 year-olds would not have been allowed to develop the independance to feel comfortable with the unknown and would be sheltered to an extent that this would just not be possible. I am learning from you, little sister!! Love you.
If I can see through my tears, I want to let both of MY little girls know how much I appreciate them — their strength, their ideals, their love of life and of their children.
I’d also like to ask how you might feel, Al, if I used your journaling to read in church tomorrow night. I’ve been looking for a break — we’re having a hymnsing with Wayne at the organ, and I thought that this might be a wonderful lift for all the grans and grandpas in the pews between hymn groupings. Please let me know if you would not like that to be done. Love, Mum
Ma tres tres belle Alison!!! This is a profoundly brave and beautifully written expression of your love and support for your young man. Ben and Charlotte will have the summer of a lifetime!