Since we have a Pick Up The Son From The Airport Appointment on December 20th, and since I’m currently in a Son Mood, I am going to re-post something I wrote when he flew home for Christmas the very first time after leaving for college.
This was first posted December, 2007.
We were all so excited that Nathan was coming home that we arrived at the airport a full forty-five minutes early.
We sat outside the airport for a while. And then we sat back inside. Then we went back outside. And we twiddled our thumbs. And tapped our toes.
In between our inside/outside/twiddling/tapping maneuvers, we kept on wandering over to the arrival/departure monitors as if fervent and intense staring would somehow coerce the monitor into magically announcing that Nathan’s plane had finally landed.
And then! Finally! The Great Moment arrived! The monitor proclaimed that a certain flight from Orlando was on the ground!
The three of us were a few steps away from the escalator where the passengers were to make their appearance, so we raced over and, almost vibrating with enthusiasm, lined ourselves up to wait.
And wait some more.
And then, in the midst of our diligent waiting, we happened to notice something rather alarming. We noticed that there didn’t seem to be many Orlando passengers appearing on the escalator. In fact, we noticed that there didn’t seem to be any passengers appearing on the escalator at all!
Finally, an airport employee (who doubtless couldn’t stand to gaze upon our crestfallen faces one minute longer), asked what airline we were looking for. When we told him “Southwest, “ he said, “Oh, you’re in the wrong place. You have to walk down this long hall to the other escalator.”
Well, I am not the speediest person on the planet in any sense of the word, but when I considered the possibility that my son might arrive on his first trip home from college without his family there to greet him—well, that was just too much for me to cope with.
And so I immediately shifted my 45-year old body into high gear, which for me basically means that I switched my operating speed from Real Slow to Slow-ish/Medium-ish. I have no doubt that my frenetic Slow-ish/Medium-ish cavorting down the corridor provided inimitable entertainment for all the people around me.
Puffing and panting (COPD patients do not usually engage in slow-ish and/or medium-ish sprinting) I finally arrived at the second escalator and planted myself firmly in position, camera in hand, heart in throat, excitement intense.
Sarah and Steve pulled up behind me shortly thereafter and we all fixed our gazes on the escalator with the same enthusiasm as if we were expecting the resurrected Beatles to make a personal appearance right there in front of our very eyes.
We waited. And we waited some more.
Sarah informed me very earnestly, “Mom, I’m just looking for a cumulus cloud,” which is what we always call Nathan’s “big hair” whenever we’re teasing him.
But, alas, no cumulus cloud appeared. All we saw was an excruciatingly empty escalator.
Finally, after a few minutes had passed, Steve (who is a little “smarter than the average bear”) said, “Becky, there is no one coming off this escalator. However, there are a lot of people coming out of the baggage claim area. Let me go look over there for Nathan.”
Suddenly, we heard Steve shout, “It’s him! I see him! Nathan is over here!”
Sarah and I practically knocked each over in our frenzied hurry to get over to the baggage claim area. In fact, at that very instant, for one brief moment in time, I almost got myself worked up to Medium-ish/Fast-ish speed!)
And then we saw him. All the way across the cavernous room, Nathan was sitting forlornly by himself, no doubt wondering if his family had maybe, possibly, inexplicably forgotten that he was coming home for Christmas.
There were hugs all around and then we all stepped back for a moment and gave him the once over, trying to see if he had changed, trying to discern if he was the same ol’ Nathan.
And he was the same—but with just a extra dash of college sophistication thrown in.
. . . heading out of the airport.
Can you believe how young the two of them look? (Me either.)
. . . and posing with his little sis.
His visit home zoomed by way too fast. When the day arrived to take him back to the airport, we all got kind of silly for a while, sitting on his bed, watching him pack, acting goofy, enjoying, and treasuring the minutes together.
As we were getting ready to load his stuff in the van Sarah said, "Nathan can't leave. We haven't prayed yet."
And so the four of us gathered in the garage, held hands (with Snowy looking on with great interest) and prayed together. And THEN it was time to go.
I got to drive him back to the airport and it was a treat to get to spend time with just the two us. There was a magnificent magenta sunset filling the sky in front of us and as we drove, I feasted my eyes on the sky, feasted my ears on Nathan’s words and feasted my heart on his quiet, dear companionship. A quick hug at the airport curb and he disappeared inside the terminal, the “cumulus cloud” visible for a couple extra seconds as he turned the corner.
I choked up a little as I drove away and yet, in the middle of missing him, I was so proud of him for doing so well without us, for making his own way so well, so far from home.
As I drove home, I thought back to August when he had started college. The night before we were to drive him to Florida, he and I had gone out to run an errand and pulled back into the garage about 9 pm.
As I slammed the van door and started making my way toward the side door, I noticed that Nathan hadn’t gone ahead of me into the house. He was just standing there between me and the door, with his arms stretched out toward me and with a dear expression on his face.
I walked toward him and he wrapped those big old lanky arms around me and just let me cry, let me say my good-bye. We must have stood there for at least a minute, completely silent, except for my quiet weeping.
A few days later, when I hugged him good-bye at college, I realized our real good-bye had taken place in a garage dusted with memories, a garage where my 17-year old man child had held out his arms and given me the chance to shed all the tears he knew were in my heart.
And as we hugged, I knew he was saying good-byes of his own, not just to me but also to his childhood years. We both knew that the next time he came home, he would be 18, an adult, a college student.
A chapter was ending, a precious, priceless snippet of time that would never be repeated, never be revisited. My tears were my response to the grief of seeing my son leave his childhood behind and the joy of knowing the horizons ahead of him were limitless.
Such precious memories. Such a precious time. Such a precious son.