The eight days of Snowman’s visit home seemed to evaporate like mist on a damp fall morning when the sun appears suddenly, and yesterday it was time to take him to the bus station.
I’ve put a son on the bus before, but never have I put a solo-traveling 17-year-old on a bus to the airport, where he is on his own to figure out how to check in and retrieve his e-ticket. Certainly, he did this on the way home, but the little Barbie Doll Airport near Land O’Lakes Academy has only six gates and two airlines, so I really had no worries about his ability to get on the plane there.
But it felt different to send him off to Beantown Airport alone.
At the bus station he asked, "Are you going to stay to the last possible moment?"
"I’m going to see you get on the bus," I answered. Not that I wanted to see it happen. I waited with him in the line to put his bag under the bus, and then he turned to me and smiled, but he looked a little concerned, too. I imagine he wondered whether I would grab his hands and begin to pray as I did the night we said goodbye at school.
I gave him a kiss and watched him board the bus. I must admit there was a little crying in the car as I got on the highway to head to work.
Last Monday we went to the barber shop, the one in City By the Sea famous for its lady barbers. The woman in the corner chair cut his hair. On the wall behind her was a chart for people to guess the birth date of the baby she is expecting, and to estimate the weight. All around her station are pictures of her toddler and her husband, a man in uniform.
When she heard that Snowman was only in 11th grade, but going to school in faraway Mitten-Shaped State, she almost could not believe it. She asked us for clarification more than once, and then she said to me, "You’ll have to have another one!"
No, no I won’t. I’ll have to learn how to let this one go. And then the next one.
Just two years ago, I remember thinking, "I’m tired of tying other people’s shoes for them." I didn’t mean it literally, of course. Those days were far behind us. But I realized that in my mothering and in my ministry, I attended to all the little details in a way that if not smothering to others felt smothering to me. I told myself I did not believe in a micro-managing God, but I seemed to believe only a micro-managing mother or pastor could "succeed," whatever that meant to me. Strange how hard it is to change our way of operating, even when we know it needs changing and want to act differently.
I told Snowman to call me from Beantown if he had any trouble, but all remained quiet through the afternoon. I pictured him changing planes at Toddlin’ Town Airport, perhaps meeting up with other students along the way.
Last night the phone rang about 9:15, and as we scrambled to find the
cordless phone, mislaid as usual, I heard his voice coming through the
answering machine: "Hi! I’m in Cherry Capital Airport, and I’m not dead!"
Pure Luck found the phone and handed it to me, and I talked to him briefly, hearing the background noise of students happy to be reunited. I feel relieved that he has found his right place, for this time in his life, as I have found mine.
For the next three weeks, I will turn my attention to work and preparations for Christmas. Snowman will practice and write papers and study for exams. Soon I will be meeting him at the airport and bringing him home for a longer break, which will also surely seem too short. It’s hard not to think ahead. It seems to be the time for it. It is nearly Advent, that season of waiting and watching,
hoping that all will be well, wondering what comes next, when it will
happen, how our lives will unfold.
Somehow I must find a way to pray those prayers alone, the ones that come so easily to me when I am with another person. I regard the dawn of new possibilities, not sure where life will lead me, only sure it is to something different.