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!