So supposedly this week is Spirit Week at my son’s high school. Each day the school has planned an event for the seniors as a fun way to sort of commemorate their last days of youth and bill-free freedom before being sent [dumped] into the abyss of No Return’s, responsibility, and the ever-widening definition of ‘adulting.' Today was ‘Dress up as a Movie Character Day’. Needless to say, my son left this morning decked out as a character from the movie Lone Survivor. As he pulled out the driveway in costume, I prayed he wouldn’t get pulled over. In my mind, I could see it all unraveling…
First the flashing lights go on. Then son pulls to the side of the road. Puts both hands on the steering wheel as he has been instructed to do by his dad and I countless times, and waits.
“Was I speeding officer?”
“Did I run a red light?”
“Not exactly,” the officer would reply, while staring at my child who looks like the nitwit he is. “License and registration,” he'd ask, watching my son’s hands move towards the glove compartment, while one of his hands cautiously remains on his belt.
In my imagination, my son dutifully gives the officer the requested information and then keeps his mouth shut, despite wearing that ridiculously bizarre red shaggy beard, presently adorning his usually clean-shaven face, and held in place by the elastic tie wrapped around his ears.
I can easily visualize the officer looking down at the card in his possession, reading the name, and then looking back over at my son’s photo. Then confused, glancing back at my kid. Squinting, his eyes in disbelief, wishing to God he had that second cup of coffee, then reverting his glance down at the license, -unable for the life of him see the resemblance.
“Why are you dressed like this?” The Officer would quite naturally ask. I mean if he didn't, then like what's wrong with him, right?
“OH! This?” (I can see my goofy kid laughing nervously at this point, devoid of sense.) “It’s for Senior Sprit Week.” Like that is supposed to explain anything.
“Okay- and again, why are you dressed like this? What’s with the long scraggly red beard?” At this point, the Officer would be almost entertained but hopefully less nervous.
“I’m a character from the movie, - from Lone Survivor,” my son replies jovially, and now in all probability looking even more nefarious than he did a second ago.
And that’s of course when I would more than likely get the call to come down to the station…
I can see this scene and a hundred others just as ridiculous popping off in my head. Each one playing out with a variety of different exchanges of dialogue perhaps, but in the end, all coming down to the same result, -me having to go down to the station, checkbook in hand, ready to bail out my kid. I can’t begin to tell you the profound sense of relief that washed over my body when my kid texted me that he had safely arrived in school- no issues, other than the fact he looked absolutely ridiculous.
But I digress…
So, the countdown to graduation is on! Cap and gown are ready. Yearbook purchased. Cake ordered. June 3rd my boy, my last of six humans, walks up to receive his well-earned diploma. Then, within another short period, he’ll be off to face his next life’s awaiting adventure. This particular child of mine has chosen to continue his education, so I assume with almost absolute certainty the college of his choice is gleefully awaiting his arrival with open arms and palms. Time is ticking.
So what’s the problem?
Well, for starters, this is all happening pretty fast. Speeding ahead. I mean, honestly, I knew it was coming. When last I checked, I was still in possession of most of my mental faculties including the ability to count past twenty, so, of course, I knew this day would arrive. No surprise there, but somehow, some way, the time feels as if the finality of this particular part of the three-legged race is barreling down full force upon my mother’s heart, stampeding its way through, and a wee bit too fast for my psyche to play catch up.
How do I know you ask?
Simple. Because when this same child, this now handsome young man excitedly unwrapped the neatly folded package he pulled from his backpack the other day I stopped, unable to walk or turn away. I just stood there watching as he tried on his cap and gown. Admired the way he adjusted the tassels, making sure they faced to the side. And then he turned around with the biggest grin, -searching for my approval. That’s when I broke down in tears. Happy tears. Tears of joy and pride, but tears nonetheless.
As my eyes fought to take in the fantastical sight before me, I unexpectedly choked up. Eyes filled and swelled. I couldn’t help myself as I started hugging my baby boy tightly, wetting his now damp neck with an uncontrollable flow of tears. Wrapping my much older arms around his no longer small waist as I whispered in his ear how proud I am of him…this almost 6-foot baby boy giant who easily towers over me, hugging me back, completely enveloping me.
And that’s when it hit me how small I felt in his manly embrace. That’s when I understood; the day is near.
I have to let him go. I have to let him fly.
I must accept and believe in my shaky heart of hearts that he has been duly readied and conditioned to spread his strong wings. I must convince myself for the sixth time that this last child of mine is all set, geared up, and willing to face the world with the strength and fortitude necessary to clasp onto the beguiling shift of the winds with a steady ability to soar safely high above the heavy sometimes weighted clouds.
And mind you, I have a good reason for this trepidation. Remember, I as his mother know him like no other. I am aware that this is the same child who lives mostly in tee shirts and shorts, even in the winter, -don’t ask…
The same child who repeatedly has put aluminum foil in the microwave. The same kid who broke his toe playing football in flip-flops, and again, please don’t ask.
The same kid whose little spindly legs could hardly support his toddler weight only years ago.
But at the same time, I must remind myself that this is also the same child who transformed into Mr. Suave. There he was, standing straight and tall…all spiffy and smiling from ear to ear and proudly sporting his tux for prom.
The same young man who broke through varsity football walls of defense, protecting his quarterback at all costs, which included a torn rotor cuff and Labrum.
The same young man seen donning a suit, winning debates for his school. The varsity chess player whose bedroom walls and dresser display countless trophies, medals and State Championships. The same young man who works two, sometimes three jobs.
My how the tables have turned, AND continue to turn. Spinning and spinning, building momentum with each rotation, and now almost out of my grasp. How tightly I want to pull back, grabbing back the reigns, but knowing I can’t. I shouldn't. I must not.
This change is the natural course of life. We give birth to children, filled with all the hope, dreams and aspirations to make their life better and more fulfilled than ours. To give them choices perhaps we never had or experienced. To allow them the room and berth to explore the world with open eyes and heart, while all along praying that when they are out of our reach, they remain safe, especially out in a world that doesn’t always play fair.
The countdown has begun. The days are closing in. My last baby boy is stepping out. With the unwavering pride of a mother. I bid my child continued and lasting success, God Willing. And while my arms are admittedly now old and tired, they, like my heart, are never empty.
Pass the tissues.