Today I am writing you a letter you will likely never read. It is Sunday afternoon and by the time I post this tomorrow morning, you will be landing in Warsaw, Poland, embarking on a 5 week journey which, after a week in Europe will bring you to Israel, where I am told you will have the experience of a lifetime. I should not expect to hear from you very often, so I assume that means you will be too busy to catch up on my blog while you are gone. Herein lies the opportunity to release some of the unexpected emotion that has been building inside of me in recent weeks as we prepared for your departure. I have been extremely mindful not to give myself away, not to let you know that the thought of you being more than 5700 miles away – a 12 hour plane ride – has been wreaking havoc on my heart.
There is a false security in proximity. I have little fear of you traveling to summer camp, a 90 minute car ride away, and even less fear when you go local — to the movies or head out to school each morning. With all that is happening in this country with random, senseless gun violence, statistically, you might be safer in Israel. At least that is what I have been telling myself. It is part of the two sided conversation I have which pits the throngs of American teenagers that have successfully gone before you against everything that could possibly go wrong while you are away from me.
Do you remember when you were a little boy and you had a scrape that needed disinfecting? When the Bactine burned I told you that it was “the good germs fighting the bad germs” – and that the good germs were WINNING! Well, that’s kinda what’s going on with me. The good Mom who knows this experience is so important to you is fighting with the bad Mom who just wants to keep you close for a little bit longer. With an hour left to go before your departure, the good Mom is poised to win…. but the battle hurts.
As I sat with my Blue Sharpie yesterday, marking your initials on the inside of your socks, I was overcome with the fact that this was the last act of care I could complete before you left. There I was, writing “NM” thirty times on socks that have odds of making it home of about 50 to 1. I watched as the marker bled into the fabric, making my N’s and M’s look like some sort of miniature Rorschach tests. Well, hopefully you will be the only kid with that particular design and you will be reunited with enough socks to keep your feet dry for the duration of the trip. I hope someday you will understand the weirdness that comes with parenting, but I just have to say that I have never loved you more than I did when I was labeling your socks.
I asked you if you were nervous about anything and you admitted that you were most concerned about the flights. I smiled and told you that all would be fine, knowing that I can’t make any promises except to be a source of comfort for your fears. You asked if I was nervous about anything – and I lied again, casually quipping that I just want you to have a great time. But the truth is: I am nervous about everything and I can’t wait for you to come home. Its not unlike the first time you walked home from school by yourself. I fretted mightily that day, but every day after that became easier until I didn’t even think about it anymore. I am hoping that is what is in store for me on this trip. Because right now I feel like someone is ripping my heart out of my chest and setting it free – unprotected – somewhere across the world.
Thank you for giving your brother an unprecedented amount of your time in your final hours before departure. It would have been easier if you were fighting today; I would have been quicker to usher you into the car and away from the bickering. Instead I hear you jamming in the music room, you on guitar, Chase on drums. Soon, just drums. Ok, I’m losing it. IT IS ONLY FIVE WEEKS, I know. I hope you miss the shit out of each other.
I don’t want you worrying about much over there. In anticipation of the travel snafus that often come with a long trip, I told you not to worry about losing things – that everything can be replaced, and fairly quickly at that. But that’s not exactly true. I fully expect to lose a piece of you on this journey that will never be replaced. It’s the part of you that needs your Mom to label your socks.
Oh, and I’m sorry that I cried when you left. Be grateful that I couldn’t join you and Dad at the airport because then I would have cried in public. I am actually pretty proud of myself that it was only a few crocodile tears — and not a bawling snot cry. Please know, my son, that it is a privilege to have someone cry for you. I hope that as long as you are on this earth, there will always be another person who loves you that much.
I will keep busy while you are gone, although its tempting just to wring my hands and pace for the next 35 days. You be sure to keep yourself happy and safe – and I will do the same here. We owe this journey to each other.
I can’t wait to hear all about it; I can’t wait for you to come home.