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….still my father 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 Daniel pack up for 5 months in Argentina. He’s responsible; he’s ready; I’m excited for him to have this adventure. Though I joke about it, 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, going to summer camp in Maine where he didn’t know a soul. He and I flew 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.