Shortly before my oldest son started eighth grade, I wrote a wistful post prompted by two friends who were each sending their oldest daughters off to college. Isn't it strange how quickly they change, I mused.
I am writing this post shortly after my oldest son finished college. (No, you didn't lose track of time there. He finished on an unusually speedy schedule, assisted by college math classes taken as a high school junior and senior along with a bunch of AP credit.) He spent a couple of weeks with us over Christmas, and last night I took him back to his apartment.
The NYC internship from last summer has turned into a full-time job. He'll be traveling for all of January -- a birthday trip with friends, a work trip to Switzerland, a work trip to Canada -- and then settling down in New York City at the beginning of February. I've known this for a while now. This is a great next step for him. It is exactly what he wants: they will compensate him well to do work he loves in his favorite city. Who could ask for anything more?
Well, me. That's who.
I got out of the car last night to hug him. I said, "I hope your adventures..." And then my voice stopped working.
He's been leaving for a while now, my Alex has. The summer after I wrote that post he CIT'd at Scout camp, and then he worked there during the following two summers. He hasn't really lived in our house since May of 2015. He had already started talking about returning to his apartment as "going home." And yet-- it's different now. It was weird having him in NYC last summer, but it was temporary. Most of the time we could pop over to campus and bring him home for a sibling's birthday. He never needed me to bring him chicken soup when he was sick, but the option existed. I was still the person who sent him to the dentist.
IT IS SILLY TO BE WEEPY ABOUT MAKING ONE LESS DENTIST APPOINTMENT, JAMIE. SUPER SUPER SILLY.
[pauses to find a Kleenex]
While he was home he spent hours and hours helping his brother with college applications, nudging my 18yo through multiple revisions until he wound up with an essay to be proud of. Late one night he came to Stella's aid, fetching her water and Tylenol and rinsing out a puked-in trash can without ever waking me up. I slipped out to feed the meter quickly while we were having lunch one day, and he picked up the check while I was gone.
And he's just so funny -- so funny. [makes a valiant effort not to say "WHO WILL MAKE ME LAUGH NOW?!?!"]
On the morning he was born, 21 years ago, things looked bleak initially. His initial APGAR was 1; after urgent resuscitation efforts he spent a day on a ventilator and a few more days recovering. When the midwife was narrating the NICU staff's resuscitation efforts she said to me, "He has your cleft in his chin, Jamie." I thought about that moment when we were at my parents' house for his birthday weekend; I could see that cleft clearly in silhouette, covered with red stubble. I look at that chin, that red stubble, and I think, "That's my boy."
The nature of that possessive pronoun has been changing across his whole life. He was wholly mine as an infant, less so as a toddler, less and less so as the years stole by. He is still mine, and also no longer mine. It is fitting and appropriate, and also kind of painful.
So here you go, New York; we are sending you our brilliant generous hilarious handsome firstborn. Please treat him kindly.