One year ago our 15-year-old son disappeared into the airport-security crowd. I watched him walk--backpack over his shoulder, confident-but-frightened, excited-but-scared--in the direction of his dreams. We knew we wouldn't see him for six weeks. (We didn't know how rarely we would hear from him.) We knew he longed for this adventure and we knew it was best to let him go. But I am his mother, and as he walked out of my sight at the airport, I cried.
In just a few days, he leaves again for Alaska. He spent last summer learning the trade (gill-net salmon fishing) and this year he'll join a new crew on a bigger boat in a different part of the ocean. He may be more experienced, but once again he's setting off into so much unknown it's hard to believe. I'm already crying again.
I will miss him and I'm anxious, but as he slipped into the sea of airport-humanity last summer, my tears fell for another reason altogether.
I knew he was going to be okay. I knew in my gut as he left: he's got what it takes. He is strong and resilient and smart. He's gutsy and intrepid and most of the time he makes really, really good choices. I am still amazed by his willingness to face--to fly right into--the unknown. I am overcome equally with pride and humility; despite our parental mistakes and weaknesses, our child has got his own.
For me, those six weeks were a season of waiting, of trusting, of not-knowing, of missing my boy. A season of thinking good thoughts and hoping for no news (because it always means good news).
And then our boy came home. Bearded and filthy and happy. Different. Grown-up. Many times this year we've seen evidence of the perspective he gained, being lonely and working hard and living among strangers. He is a man of few words and we saw only a few photographs of his entire experience, which means most of it belongs only to him.
It is a beautiful mystery, watching our children do things completely unknown to us. Only when we let them go (sometimes miles and time-zones away, into the literal wilderness) do we give them the space and the freedom to become themselves.
God bless my child, who's got his own. Keep him safe; bless the adults who will guide him; bless his work and his journey. Bless the harvest; keep his waters calm; make him a fisher of men. St. Andrew, protect him. Bring our baby back home.