As The Girl boarded a bus in San Diego, headed for Mexico, it washed over me like a cold shower – “The next time i see her, she will be changed.” A day later, she started her Semester at Sea, sailing around the world on a ship with 700 undergraduate students. Six weeks later, i watched her disembark from that ship as it docked in
Saigon Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We spent a week knocking around Vietnam and Cambodia together – and seeing her confidence, i realized that i had been right.
We spent our last night there drinking beer in a cowboy bar, listening to a Vietnamese country and western band knock out respectable covers, including a memorable version of “Stand By Your Man”. Her adventures continued the next day, and i began my journey home. At 20 years old, she was well on her way to becoming an engaged, contributing citizen of Planet Earth.
She was changed. She was broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…
Six weeks ago, i watched as The Boy boarded a plane for basic training. The exact same feeling – “The next time i see him, he will be changed.” He’d signed an eight year commitment. All in. A very challenging, and unknown path ahead of him. Much like the Semester at Sea, i also knew that he would have very limited opportunities to communicate – adding to the parental anxiety.
Yesterday, i stood at the airport awaiting his arrival. Two weeks of leave for Christmas break. Happy holiday travelers filled the exit chute. i hopped around in the coffee shop, nervously scanning the crowd, looking for military uniforms. A few soldiers came by, but not mine…
“Oh, I just want to hug them all, don’t you?” said the sweet woman standing next to me. She told me she was waiting for her mother to arrive for the holidays, but she just loved seeing the young soldiers in uniform. i agreed, and continued to bop around nervously, waiting for the next pack to walk down the hallway.
i saw him. Not breaking his bearing, he spotted me and cracked a tiny smile. i bounced around the coffee bar and gave him a hug. “How did you get taller? And what did they do with the rest of your hair?”
“It’s the boots”.
As we turned to head for the exit, i spotted my coffee bar companion.
“And by the way, this lovely lady wants to hug you, too!”
We headed for the car, where i had secured his ‘welcome basket’ – a good India Pale Ale and a pack of smokes. Non-stop conversation on the drive home. Tales of bureaucracy, head games, physical challenges and “Shit My Drill Sergeant Said”. Sick Bay and Hand Grenades. Running his first seven minute mile (he was at nine minutes just a few weeks back). And leaning forward into what lies ahead.
He is changed. He is broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…