I woke up this morning and realized my three sons are on three different continents.
I shuffled out of bed, let the dogs out, and sat on the lawn. It was eerily quiet. Signs of the boys were everywhere: an arrow stuck in the lawn which had missed its target by a long shot. Olive, our little Sheltie, was chewing on a faded soccer ball. And one, lone, white sock, partially covered in mulch, peeked out from under the boxwood, because..., well, just because.
And then I cried. I mean, I really cried. I cried tears of relief because each had made it safely to his destination. I cried messy, happy tears because each of my boys was doing his own thing, taking the world by storm. And then I cried out of fear because this has been one helluva violent summer. And my babies are out there.
The oldest, 16, is in Beijing through SYA on a language immersion program. My 13 year-old is doing a student exchange with our sister city in Esslingen, Germany through our chapter of the People to People organization. And my youngest, 12, is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (feels like a separate continent) on the shores of Lake Superior at Michigan Tech's amazing hockey camp.
Plans for our summer of 2016 began last October with applications, interviews, grant forms, webinars, essay questions, and a lot of check writing for program deposits.
Then Malaysian Flight 17 was shot down and suicide bombers attacked a train station in Turkey.
In November, Paris suffered a massive attack and chaos ensued.
Over the holidays people asked, "Are you sure you want to let your kids travel with all that's going on in the world?"
We continued with our planning. My son applied for his visa, the scholarship form was finalized, and we went to the bank to set up teen checking accounts and debit cards.
In spring, the bombings at the Brussels airport and a metro station shook me to the core.
With tears streaming down my face, I made plane reservations for the boys anyway.
We picked out adapters, journals, good walking shoes and continued to check things off our lists.
We didn't avoid the news. Together we watched the coverage of Orlando.
We said "I love you" a lot. In fact, the act of saying "I love you" began to feel like our five seconds of safe haven. We said it before bed, getting out of the car for school, getting dropped at soccer practice, before meals, and basically all the time. When we weren't together, we texted it. "I love you" became our daily armor to protect us from whatever unimaginable tragedy was going to strike next.
The police shootings in Dallas and the Bastille Day attack in Nice followed. It was clear the world had gone utterly mad.
We discussed these events. We mourned the dead. And we kept saying "I love you."
On Friday we packed the suitcases, hockey gear, and went shopping for travel snacks.
When we deposited checks from grandma and grandpa at the boys' bank, an employee said, "I would never let my child go to Europe or Germany or any of those places." Um, honey, oh...forget it.
I got defensive, "What should we do? Stay home for the rest of our lives? My child could get hit by a car tomorrow right outside our front door." We live in a cul-de-sac and that would never happen, but she didn't know that.
"Well," she said, "I don't think you should go lookin' for trouble."
"I promise you, bank-teller-lady, no one here is lookin' for trouble. Let me guess, you spend your time on your Cheeto-stained couch watching reality TV repeats: shows of other people doing stuff that they already did."
Ok, I didn't actually say that out loud. I just said it in my head, but it was still quite satisfying.
The insinuation that I was careless with my children's lives stung. And it stung hard.
Do we have to stop wandering? Do we just put our heads down and try to get by? Do we have to give up our dreams? I bet that woman has never tried ceviche, rolled the dice in Vegas, or stood in a city center with a map and a thirst for knowledge.
That woman didn't realize she's the one who is really in danger.
As soon as we stop learning, we begin to die.