Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What a Short, Wonderful Trip It's Been*

by Judy Merrill Larsen

Twenty-two years and four months ago today, I delivered my first child, a beautiful, tiny, baby boy born in the wee hours (minutes, really) of Easter Sunday morning. He arrived a month early. (I don't think he's been early for anything since.)

One week ago today, I delivered that same baby, now a beautiful young man to his new life in Seattle where he has an apartment overlooking Puget Sound, a job he's been dreaming about since he started college 4 years ago, and, at least as far as I can see it, the world by a string.

And it all passed in the blink of an eye.

How did it all happen, I found myself wondering on our 2200 mile drive west. Where did the time go? In his grin and in his sweetness, I can still see the little boy who fell out of his chair just about every day in 1st grade. And I also saw his intelligence and determination as he figured out, several times, how to back up the 17-foot truck with a car being towed behind it. Often when I'd pulled it a smidge too close to the gas pump or the curb or the building wall in the alley. I'd first seen those qualities when he'd finish a puzzle without wanting any help or follow the painstaking directions putting a Lego project together.

I remember back to those precious quiet moments you only get with your first baby, those hours of rocking and nursing and staring at this person who relied on me for everything (that's true terror!), wondering who he might grow up to be. I hoped he'd find a career he'd love, a career that would fill him in all good ways. I wanted a life for him filled with passion and joy and challenge and satisfaction. And he's making it happen. He picked his dream city and he sent out letters and resumes and he now gets to claim his life. I'm thrilled and humbled.

We had lots of time to talk on our drive, and it was a luxury I haven't had with him in I don't know how long. At home, we chat, but it seems always in passing. When he's been away at school, there's the occasional relaxing phone call, but more often it's a quick "How are you? Love you. Bye." But the road stretched out before us, mountains and plains and rivers, and we talked. About politics and the environment and music. But a good deal of the time was spent reminiscing. As parents, I think we often wonder what they'll take away from their childhoods. What will they remember and hold fast to? I wasn't always patient or creative. I remember being tired much of the time. Should I have done more of this or less of that? We wonder and worry and try our hardest and hope for the best. But even then we don't always know.

But then, somewhere in South Dakota (after the keys had been locked in the truck but before we'd discovered the brakes were a tad touchy), he told me what a great childhood he'd had, how he loved those summers of adding on to his fort in the backyard and exploring in the woods near the park, how our neighborhood had been just right, filled with kids of all ages to play with and learn from, and how he was glad he'd had such unprogrammed summers filled with inventions and activities the kids dreamed up, and I felt myself relax. I'd done good. And so had he.

So, after the drive and the unloading and the short few hours of sleep before my flight home, when I hugged him goodbye at the airport and kissed his neck, I knew we were both ready for this next part of our lives together. People have asked if I'm sad he's so far away or if I cried when I said goodbye. And I'm not and I didn't. There's nothing to be sad or weepy about--22 very short years ago, I set out on a promise to give him roots and wings. And looking at him now, I think I accomplished both.

* With apologies to Jerry and the rest of the band for the paraphrase

(Cross-posted at Not Afraid of the "F" Word)

p.s. Be sure to tune in next week when I put my funny-writer-hat back on and write about kissing politicians. Seriously.


Daisy said...

Sniff. Sigh. Gulp. My eldest is 21 going on 30, I swear. When I move her "out" for good, I know I'll cry. I hope I'll laugh just as much.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Daisy, you'll do great. I thought I'd be weepy and all, but he's so clearly doing what he was meant to do and it's just such a cool time in his life, I couldn't be sad. (Maybe it had to do with lack of sleep, though. I mean I could have just been in shock!)