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February 24, 2010

Parting words

Suitcase No cell phone.  No email.  No credit card.  No itinerary.

That’s how I went to Europe with a couple girlfriends the summer I was 19.     I had a suitcase, a Eurail pass, and a vague idea of where we were going.   The plans changed daily;  Air France lost my suitcase;  at least I hung onto the Eurail pass.

The only way to communicate with me was to send a letter to an American Express office in a city we might hit at some point.

My mother had just died of cancer the year before….my father, still grieving, didn’t hesitate to give his blessing (and money) for my trip.

I called home once.    I had planned to stay in Europe all summer,  but decided to add a week in Israel.   This wasn’t part of the deal, and I wanted my dad’ s okay.    And I needed it quickly, I told him from the phone in Rome’s airport,  because  “the flight is already boarding.”

He told that story for years.

The story had a different ring to me once I  became a mother……..The world’s most neurotic mother.    I remember asking my father how he could do it—could let me go off on my own, not knowing where I was.   He smiled…. “Someday you’ll do it, too.   I always knew you could take care of yourself.”

I think about this as I watch my son pack up for a semester abroad,  5 months in Argentina.   He’s responsible; he’s ready;   I’m excited for him to have this adventure.   I joke about it,  but I’m not really worried.   Still I feel a sense of loss.   He steps forward and I step back.

The first time Daniel went somewhere alone,   he was 10.  He was about to go to summer camp in Maine where he didn’t know a soul.    He and I flew from California to New York, and stayed overnight near the school where the bus would be picking up all the campers the next morning.    Suddenly, the separation felt real.

I didn’t want to  humiliate both of us and make a scene at the bus—so I told Daniel we’d say goodbye now, in advance.    I was trying  (not very successfully) not to cry.     My 10-year old son calmly put his arms around me.   “Mommy, don’t worry.  I’ll be fine.   I can take care of myself.’

I wish his grandfather was still around, so I could tell him he was right.

This is an original 50-something Moms Blog post.