On Sunday morning, at 4:30, my mom, Tre, and I got in Mom's car and drove out of town. We were taking Tre to camp, an eight hour drive away. Clay, Max, Raphael, and Sophia stayed home. Mom and I planned to make the trek there, drop Tre off, and turn right around and drive home the same day.
If that sounds a bit insane, you're probably right.
As we drove through the early morning hours, into the day, Tre slept in the back seat, then woke to eat enormous quantities of food, then talked and laughed and filled up the car with the easy grace I've come to expect of him. He is such a joy to me. A wearying, bouncy, noisy joy. This summer he's spending two weeks at camp, and ever since we registered him for that second week, I've been wondering how I could possibly survive without him for two entire weeks.
And yet, as we drove and drove and drove toward his camp, all of us talking and laughing and complaining about how far away the camp is, I would take a moment and check my heart for the panic and pain that I'd felt when leaving him last year.
But I was okay. A little sad at times, anxious around the edges a bit, but really okay. It's sort of like labor, I thought, not nearly as terrifying the second time around.
We got to the camp, got him checked in and situated in a bunk. We wandered the grounds, sat around, and waited for our time to leave and his week to start. Occasionally I would feel a little jolt of panic, a physical protest at the thought of leaving him behind. But those were just moments, and they were over as fast as they happened.
Finally it was time, and I hugged him tight, tears stinging just a bit, and whispered the only wisdom I could think of - "You WRITE TO YOUR MOMMY."
And "I am so proud of you."
Mom and I climbed in the car and sat there, in the parking lot in the oppressively overheated air behind the windshield, and watched him walk away. He only looked back once. And because there was nothing else left to do, we drove away.
"You okay?" Mom asked, checking me with a sideways glance.
"I am," I said, somewhat surprised. "I really am. I know he's okay. I know he can handle it." We started to talk, nothing heavy, just chatting.
I was in the middle of a story, laughing, when we rounded a corner and a wave of grief and terror washed over me. It was not okay, it could not possibly be right to be leaving him. It felt like a nightmare, like that moment in the grocery store when he was three years old and disappeared around a corner. It felt WRONG, and my mother's heart overwhelmed my mind. I buckled and wrapped my arms around my knees and wept.
"I'm sorry," I said, "it's not...I know he's fine...it just feels physically wrong."
"I know," she said. For a while she just drove and I cried. My phone buzzed with a text from Clay. I love you, he said, and I cried some more.
It really is like labor, I thought. It's impossible, and you go ahead and do it anyway.
And then I dried my eyes and went home.