Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roots and Wings

Rewind to last spring.

M called in the middle of the day, a somewhat unusual occurrence. As soon as I heard his voice I could tell something wasn't right, and here we go again. :-/ Well, thank God, no dislocated jaws or broken noses or motorcycle accidents this time. No, this time it was what hadn't happened yet.

"Mom. I don't know what to do."

I always have time to listen/talk to M, but that day I was at Firestone waiting for a new tire, so I really had time to talk and listen. M had just gotten the invitation of a lifetime: 19 days in Israel, all expenses paid, escorted by the IDF. Right up his alley in every way.

His dilemma? Since the age of 11, M has been a devoted uncle of seven assorted nephews and nieces, bonding with them and watching them grow up. At this point he had not seen any of them in several months, and he was afraid of what he might have missed by the next time he got to see them.

"Mom," he commented, "I know you are always going to be there, and you'll be the same." Flawed reasoning, that, but I got his drift. He went on, "But those little guys. . . Will they remember me if they don't see me?"

The Chance to Realize a Dream vs. the Memories of Home and Family. Yep. A dilemma. And how do you decide?

The Dream is what's coming. At least that's what you hope. It's what you live for. It's what you think you long for. It's what you want to achieve, though sometimes the anticipation is greater than the realization. Of course you never know that until you do it.

Home will always be there. Won't it? We would like to think so. But places change, and people change, and the only home that really stays the same is the one in our memory. The one to which there is no return.

"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin

So there they are. The two most important things we can give our children: Roots, and Wings. And the hope (I think...?) that when all is said and done, Roots will out.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Thanks to Global Warming, the Blizzard of the Century is making an appearance all over the country in a winter only days old, creating travel havoc for the cadets leaving West Point. Just like last year.

Last winter, M was on the last flight out of Newark before the airport was shut down, thus barely missing the adventures awaiting his classmates who were re-routed and stranded all over the country. This winter was a replay. He was a bit late getting home though, due to a 4-day layover in Kansas visiting D and her family who will not be home for Xmas.

Ordinarily he spends about half his time at home sleeping. Not this break. This time he has gotten up early every day but one. His mornings have been spent going Xmas shopping with me, going to work with his dad, opening Xmas presents with his nephews/niece, cooking breakfast over a campfire with his friends. Well, as he is fond of reminding me, there will be sleeping enough in the grave.

M being our youngest, and the last one "at home," we have to share him. Not only did we give up three nights to D in Kansas, we lost him to C and her family Xmas Eve night. He explained that it would not be right to wake up Xmas morning in a house without kids, so he spent the night with them. Well, he is the kid of this house, so...what about us???

Saturday he took off to camp out with his old re-enacting friends, stopping on his way home to spend Sunday night with S and his family. There just isn't enough of him to go around, but we take what we can get, and he will be back home tonight, safe in his own little bed.

Still to do: shopping for pants for him and office supplies for his desk, a visit or two with another friend or two, an interview for his top-secret clearance, Happy New Year's Eve party, and a family reunion on Saturday before his plane leaves at 6am on Sunday.

He always takes the early flight back to West Point. Security being what it is, and the trip to the airport being what it is, we are usually up at 3:30 to get him there in time. This year, his flight is scheduled for one hour earlier than usual, and thanks to the latest suicidal terrorist, security will take twice as long, so we're going to have to get up at.....hmmm...maybe we should go directly from the family reunion to the airport...

M is an eager learner, and he is excited about his classes next semester. Stuff like physics and Russian and politics. And ice-skating! He is also scheduled for a one-week exchange with a Ukrainian cadet, to take place, when else, during spring break. Which means we are taking a good, hard look at him for the rest of the week. It's gonna be a long, dry spell after this.

Next time he calls to tell us he won't get to come home, I'm going to try to remember to say, "Good! Now we can go on a cruise!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Go Army! Beat Navy!

Football! Who cares? Not I, but this is Army/Navy! "The most storied rivalry in the history of football" and all that. I don't give a rip about football, but the cadets? That I care about! I will sit through a whole football game, like I did yesterday, just for a glimpse of the cadets. The march-on, the signs, the sea of grey, the flags, the bands, the s-l-i-m to non-existent possibility of seeing Waldo, all add up to an excellent reason to waste spend an afternoon in front of a football game on tv.

So, armed with knitting, nacho dip, and tortilla chips, we were off to C's to while away a family afternoon with Army/Navy at the center.

I had intel from M as to where to look for him on the march-on: "On the right, fourth row from the front, in the group with the Navy guy at the front." Easy to spot, right? Well, he would be, if they would just show the march-on. But, alas, the best they did on that score was occasional flashbacks lasting only a second or two, never enough time to look properly.

One thing I noticed right off the bat, so to speak: too many commercials, not enough cadets, and of course an overabundance of football. Between the game and the commercials, we were treated to an occasional look at the audience, the coaches, the players sitting on the bench, the midshipmen, and every so often we actually saw the cadets. We hunted Waldo diligently, but the camera zoomed by so fast we could barely make out an individual face. Well, no matter. We taped the game for a leisurely inspection at a later time.

On my way home I had a text from M, who had had a text from a friend who claimed to have seen him. This news sent D off to examine her tape, and she called me later that night to report a possible sighting at 4:58-5:00 on the clock/tape. I will be pursuing that lead later tonight, with the fervor of a coach studying the last game tape...slow it down, back it up, freeze the frame...

I must say, the cadets gave an excellent account of themselves. The team persevered on the field; off the field, the cadets in the stands represented themselves with discipline and respect and fine military bearing.

And in spite of what the score might say, it was a good, well-played game with Army scoring the first points of the game and showing a lot of improvement over last year. There is a new coach at USMA, and good things are going to happen, beginning now:

Army won the first half; Navy won the second half. I call that ~ a TIE!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Safe At Home!

Early outs are definitely out of the ordinary at West Point. Unlike at other schools, where you skip class at will and go home (or wherever) whenever you feel like it, at West Point you stay till the bitter end. But M is participating in the CPRC program this holiday, which means...early out! Sorta.

He will be at home all week, plus the two weekends, but a lot of that time still belongs to West Point, and he will be busy with a lot of PR things: a tv interview, a radio interview, and high school presentations on Monday; more high school things and candidate physical fitness assessments on Tuesday; meeting with interested homeschooled students on Wednesday.

After that he is all ours, until dark and early Sunday morning, when he will get back on the plane to West Point for a speech from POTUS, West Point's traditional Xmas party, the legendary Army/Navy football game...All while wrapping up classes, finishing end-of-semester projects, and, of course *participating* in the TEE's. It's a busy life, that of a West Point cadet.

And now...Only three weeks until he's home for Christmas!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just Another Day At West Point

West Point offers no end of opportunity, and M takes every possible advantage. He stays stretched to the limit. Until he takes on something new. Then he stretches just a l-i-t-t-l-e bit more.

Every day starts dark and early for him. Formation and duties and whatever all they have to do, then breakfast, and classes, which for him start immediately after breakfast. Tuesday offered up a few extras:

  • Lunch with Walker, Texas Ranger, aka Chuck Norris. West Point habitually plays host to hosts of heavy hitters, and you just never know who is going to show up to join the cadets for a lunch of luscious lasagna. Yum! Good food and good company.
  • An afternoon of packing with one hand while talking on the phone with the other, tracking down all manner of trivia and other obscurities in order to fill in the blanks on 82 pages of questions in the quest for a Top Secret Clearance which he will need for his internship next summer.
  • And then a sprint to catch the bus with the rest of the debate team headed for the airport to get on a flight to Merrie Olde Englande.
My last word from M, right after "Boarding, boarding, boarding," was a txt msg saying, "The guy sitting next to me is a Russian. Cooooollll!" M's language is Russian, so, knowing M, I'm sure he spent the next couple of hours practicing on his captive audience. I was rather hoping he would get some sleep, but sleep is the one opportunity of which the cadets are chronically deprived. Well...there will be sleeping enough in the grave...

One thing about West Point: It never lets schooling interfere with education.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Eat My His Dust

M is waaaay ahead of me when it comes to....well, pretty much everything.
  • He has met a famous person or two in this last year: H. Ross Perot, the president of Tanzania (or someplace like that), Frankie Valli, President Dubya. And while not exactly meeting current President Obummer, he had the privilege and honor of being ignored marching in his inaugural parade.
  • He has participated in debate tournaments against Harvard and Princeton and any number of other Ivy League bastions of liberalism, as well as the Model United Nations conference in Washington D.C.
  • He has become an international traveler. Israel over the summer...Oxford, England coming up in a couple of weeks...hints of exotic promises for next summer...and, of course, "The City."
  • He is learning all sorts of new skills: Riding the trains, figuring out the shuttle bus schedules, driving 15-passenger vans in wintry weather, organizing trips, hacking into secret computers, becoming a nationally and New York state certified EMT.
  • As of yesterday, he is an academically-recognized, star-studded cadet.
Anything else? Probably. But right now I can't think of another thing. Maybe after I get through choking on his dust...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What's The Problem?

West Point is a college like no other. One basic difference is that at West Point, no matter what your degree plan or major might be, Military Science is a required course.

One morning in said Military Science class, the teacher rounded up a few volunteers, each of which was outfitted with an M-16 and instructed to go outside.

While the cadets sat by the side of the road awaiting further orders, people were going by on their early morning way to work. Picture driving down the road, suddenly coming across five young men sitting on a pile of rocks, armed with M-16's. Hmmm...no one showed the slightest concern, until a Major happened along and inquired, "What are you guys doing?"

"It's for MS, Sir," they replied.

"Oh, ok. Carry on, then."

And that was that.

Unlike at any other school, where the mere suggestion of a weapon calls for wholesale fear and instant chaos, this morning, at this school, no cops were called. No *lockdown* was initiated. And nothing untoward happened.

Kinda makes one wonder, doesn't it...? Could it just possibly be, that guns aren't really the problem???

Saturday, October 3, 2009

WP Fans

One month ago I was a visitor in a singing class. I was going to my seat when this cute little old man enthusiastically addressed me, "You have a son in his second year at West Point!"

Never having set eyes on this man before I was slightly taken aback, but M is Personality personified, and having spent two years on the local college debate circle, he has all sorts of friends in all sorts of places, and it was entirely likely that this little grandpa might be one of them.

"Do you know him?" I gasped in surprise.

"No," he replied, pointing at me, "I read it on your shirt." I looked down to see I was wearing my West Point Mom, Class of 2012 t-shirt. Well, duh...

You just never know where you are going to meet a West Point fan. . .

Thursday, October 1, 2009

WAAAAAH Burger and French Cries, Part 2

I am finally used to this West Point Mom thing. Or so I keep telling myself.

I'm ok with my baby off at the nation's #1 college, pursuing his calling. I'm ok with him adventuring not only halfway across the country, but halfway across the world, in Israel, of all places, safe in the company of the IDF. I'm ok with only occasional phone calls. Or so I keep telling myself.

But this weekend I was feeling bereft. Bereft-er than usual. It was like Beast again. Incommunicado, and with lots to worry about. He normally rents quite a bit of space in my head, but the combination of several things had rather caused me to worry this time.

M was sick this weekend, all alone, all by himself up there at West Point, though thanks to the Stalker Mom, he was well-equipped with chicken rice soup, which he pronounced "glorious."

M had swine flu, they said. After two days in his bed, he made it to the doctor where he was medicated and masked and isolated/quarantined in a place with no internet and no phone service. But I was thankful he would be watched and fed. After a few days in there, he was released and now, a couple of days later, he is back in business.

Just in time to have surgery tomorrow for a deviated septum, caused by the broken nose suffered in his evil boxing class last year. Well, at least the hospital has internet access.

This long-distance mothering is for the birds. But thank God for IM-ing and txt-ing, and email . And thank God for the West Point Moms (and Dads) support system.