Miguel left for Washington D.C. on Thursday afternoon, part of a group of students and chaperones heading to the March for Our Lives. After he put his duffle bag on the bus, I grabbed him by the coat for a quick hug, told him I loved him and said, "Open your heart and mind completely to this experience." He hugged me back and said, "I will, mom," which was a pretty generous response to your mom hugging on you and speaking to you like she's reading from a fortune cookie while you're standing in front of a bunch of other teens and young adults. Even I thought to myself, "What are you saying right now, woman?" It was like I was speaking in life coach tongues.
That was our goodbye.
Two of my closest friends were chaperones on the trip, so, we received the occasional update and picture as they made their way to D.C. - pictures from Jimmy John's, a picture of the bus's flat tire and of the kids doing back flips and having wheelbarrow races while they waited for it to be repaired, and a few shots on the bus. On Thursday night, Miguel texted both Luisa and me that they'd made it to the hotel and he loved us. That text felt like a gift because we didn't ask him to keep in touch with us. We are practicing letting go in these small ways.
The quick updates and pictures continued throughout the march but I kept wanting more. It reminded me of those times when Miguel was away at camp and we'd scan the camp's website for pictures of him. We'd see him sometimes - a blur in the background, his profile, and every once in awhile, an actual picture of his face. This time it was his orange shirt visible in a corner of a crowd shot, half of his profile, the back of his head - but it never felt like enough. I wanted to see his face standing among those 800,000 because I wanted to read it, wanted to try to get a sense of what he was thinking and feeling. How could I read the back of his head?
Afterwards, our friends said the experience was amazing and promised to share more later, which was completely understandable since they had to immediately board the bus again and head home. I doubted that Miguel would respond but I texted him and said, "I know there is probably too much to say in text but if you had to describe the experience in a word?" And much to my surprise, he gave me 56 words and two emojis. They aren't mine to share here but "powerful" and "meaningful" were in there. And the truth is, those 56 words made me cry. Everything he experienced was what I had hoped for him.
They arrived home last night around 11 p.m. and we didn't exchange more than hugs and "I love you" before heading to bed but this morning, I wanted more because I've been to two marches before but wanted to experience this one from his perspective. He shared a couple of things but then it was time to pull his homework together, pack his backpack, and dive back into the details of daily life and I was disappointed because I am greedy.
As I drove him to school, I resisted the urge to grill him for details because I finally remembered that this isn't about me; this experience is his. I won't know everything about this or much of what is to come for him. I can't know everything. But I do get to watch and cheer him on as we all move into the unknown and I know that I will learn to be happy with whatever he shares with me. I am learning. This time, I have 56 words and two emojis and when I read them again, I feel so lucky.