Hundreds of Miles

PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH His bags were packed; he was ready to go. Yes, we sang "Leaving on a Jet Plane" a lot in the days leading up to his departure. We actually sing that any time someone is packed and ready to go somewhere.

Luisa and the kids were heading out the door and I looked in the mirror and noticed my bed head - "My hair!" First Luisa, then Miguel said, "It's fine." The "Let's go!" was unspoken.

An hour later, he stepped onto a bus with the rest of the junior high students and teachers and we waved goodbye. We stood with all the other parents trying to catch the last glimpse we'd have for 15 days. The bus windows were dark, however, and we couldn't really see him.

Luisa thought she saw him waving, thought she saw his watch. I couldn't see the watch or him but waved in that general direction. Then, the bus finally pulled away and headed down the street. I turned to look at all the parents and some were crying but I didn't feel sad. I couldn't even claim mixed emotions. I was just happy for all that was to come for him.

As we drove home, I mentioned that I wasn't going to miss him. Luisa said, "That's a little weird."

I felt caught, like I was doing motherhood wrong. How is that I've been a mother for 12 years and still feel that I may not be doing it right?

[pullquote]I felt caught, like I was doing motherhood wrong. How is that I've been a mother for 12 years and still feel that I may not be doing it right?[/pullquote]

Luisa must have sensed something in my silence, "What do you mean?"

"I mean that I won't pine for him. I'm happy for him and, of course, I will think of him but I won't be counting the days until he comes back." She nodded, "Okay. That's not weird. I feel the same way."

There is still that part of me that wonders if I should pine. Is that what a mother should do?

From the moment our kids could walk, they often walked away from us and I made peace with that. The world is waiting for them and they know that I'll be waiting for them when they return.

When Miguel first went to camp, he said, "I'll miss you." I said, "I'll miss you too. Just make sure you don't miss me so much that you don't make the most of the experience."

That's our thing now - miss me but live fully.

I have thought of him often in the days since he left on that bus, have wondered about the heat and whether he has been able to get his sleeping pad back in its bag. I've wondered if he's working hard and studying and learning as much as he can. Yes, I have thought of him often but I don't want him to come home, not yet - not until it's time.

This past weekend, Luisa, Zeca and I went to the cabin and spent the days outside, holding onto and letting go of summer. On Sunday night, the phone rang and it was Miguel. They had reached the gulf coast and were able to call home.

"Do you know about the Trail of Tears?"

"I stood on the balcony where Martin Luther King was shot. Usually only presidents are allowed to stand there but the rest of the museum was under construction so let us go up there and it felt so sad but so special to be there."

"There is so much work but I am learning so much."

"Mom! I am standing here watching the sun set over the gulf and it's amazing!"

"Can you believe that I'm looking at the gulf, Mom? Can you believe it?"

I blinked away tears, not because I was sad, not because I missed him, not because I wanted him to come home. I blinked away tears because I could imagine his small body, so compact and full of energy, standing there watching the sunset. I could almost feel his body vibrating with excitement, the hundreds of miles between us a conduit.

This is exactly how it should be.

"I miss you."

"I miss you too."

I no longer need to say "But don't miss me too much." We're past that. He's watching the sun set over the gulf while I stand in a cabin in Wisconsin and stare out at a lake.

"I love you."

"I love you too."

He doesn't mention home and neither do I. Why would we? There is the gulf and boats that will take him out on the water and so much still ahead.

This post was written for Just Write. Check out Heather's post and all the posts of all who joined in this week.