The happiest days are the saddest; the easiest times are the hardest; vacations are when the real work is done. Most of the year, we keep our heads down…working, going to school, doing what we must do. Then, on vacation, we look around us, and the world has changed.
Henry left for college yesterday. Was he ready to be on his own? Would he get distracted by campus life? Would he get up in the morning and do his work without his mother on his back? Would he lose his passport?
We spent the last 18 years preparing him; but when the day came for him to leave finally came, we weren’t ready for it.
He said goodbye to both grandmothers…to his brothers…to nieces who are staying with us this summer…to Damien, the gardener…to the cook…to friends and relatives. Then, his mother and father took him to the train station. The station was deserted. Henry bought his ticket and sat down with us outside the waiting lounge, facing the tracks.
“We’re going to miss you,” said his father. “There are a lot more shutters to paint.”
His mother was silent. She stroked his curly brown hair. She petted his shoulder. The sun reflected on the polished steel seats outside the station as if on a mirror. She turned her head down to avoid the glare, then looked up at him again…
After a few minutes, the moment she dreaded arrived; we saw the little blue train coming around the bend. Henry stood up, gathered up his two bags. His father hugged him. His mother kissed him on both cheeks. He got into the car and took a seat, while we waited on the dock. A young man with a long face stood at the doorway of the train, smoking a cigarette. He smoked rapidly, until the conductor blew the whistle. Then, taking one last, deep drag, he tossed the butt on the tracks and the door closed.
The train started to roll forward. The glass was tinted, so we could barely make out the people inside. Then, we saw him again…Henry waved…and the train sped up.
“He’ll be fine,” we said, escorting Elizabeth to the car.
But she was in tears…not because she doubted Henry could take care of himself, but because she knew he could.
“I should have gone with him. But I wish he didn’t have to leave at all,” said his mother. “Some mothers feel liberated when their children leave home. They feel as though they can finally do what they want. I don’t feel that way at all. I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.”
Until next we meet,
Markets and Money