Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bon voyage! And ... where did the time go?

Once upon a time, I had a little boy. He was smart and sensitive and adventurous and inquisitive, but he was also sometimes fearful. His dad and I liked to think his fears were brought about by intelligence; he was smart enough, we reasoned, to know that accidents could happen -- that power lines could fall down and amusement-park rides could break, that tornadoes could damage houses and pets could run away. His "what ifs" became a part of life, and we tried to calm and reassure him as best we could.

On his first day of kindergarten, below, his fears were front and center. What if I don't get to see my friends? What if my teacher doesn't like me? What if I get lost? What if I forget to get off the bus at my stop? But he strapped on his backpack and he soldiered on. And as the weeks and months and years passed, the fears went the way of Sonic the Hedgehog, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the red Power Ranger.

Today, he strapped on a backpack for a different reason; he's 22, and he's heading to London. Sadly, he's seen throughout the course of the last dozen years that sometimes, fears do come true. Parents can divorce. Pets can become injured. Friends and grandparents can die. But he also has seen that still, you soldier on -- every day you're fortunate enough to wake up, that's a day to soldier on. And he has.

He doesn't like to fly, and the trip from Chicago to London is a long one. Much too old, in his mind, to say, "I'm afraid," he voiced his nervousness in other ways. "I hate long flights." "I'm sure dreading that overnight flight." "I don't know what I'll do that whole time."

And I reminded him today, as I used to remind him all those years ago, "You'll be safe."

The thing is, he really didn't need me to remind him. I needed to remind myself. Because he's the one who, in the car on the way to the airport, said, "It just occurred to me that you're not going to be able to text or call me for six weeks."

Then he smiled, and it was quite possibly the broadest smile I've ever seen.

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