The other day, a man walked into my house.
He was driving my son’s car. He was wearing my son’s clothes. He even called me “Mom.”
But I had never seen this man before.
He bore a vague resemblance to a boy I dropped off at college not long ago. But the boy I remember was smaller. He held his hand out for me to hold when we crossed a street, or stepped onto an escalator. The man towered over me, putting his arm across my shoulders with ease.
The boy had an innocent face and sparkling, curious eyes. The man had a strong jaw, and a confident look. He even had facial hair.
The boy asked me questions when he wanted to learn about new things. The man talked about graduation, and about applying for jobs in California.
The boy didn’t want me to kiss him in front of his friends, and squirmed when I said “I love you.” The man hugged me tightly, and when he did I felt his love.
As I stood there watching the man – and remembering the boy – another image came to me.
The man stood in the west coast sun, with his arm around a different woman. A woman with a softer face and brighter eyes. With a smile that lit up when he entered the room. I recognized the look on the man’s face. It was the same look the little boy had when he got a new toy, or made a good grade. When he was happy.
The man stood close to the woman, so close it appeared they were one. And his hand reached out to a little boy. A boy whose eyes looked very familiar.
At that moment, I understood what my job had been all along.
When he was little I thought my job was to teach him to count and read. To cross the street safely. To say “please” and “thank you.”
I thought my job was make sure he brushed his teeth and did his homework. And wore deodorant.
But it turns out my job was to prepare him for his life without me.
In another place.
With another woman by his side.
As I returned to the moment at hand, a wave of nervousness flooded over me. And the words I’ve been contemplating for two decades came to my mind.
Roots and wings.
I gave the boy roots. That was the easy part. That was teaching him to read and cross the street and to brush his teeth and kiss him mama.
But the wings part, this was hard. But the time had come and I now had to step back and give him room to take flight.
I hope he lands somewhere special, and finds the woman with the bright eyes. I hope he remembers to say “please” and “thank you” and to wear deodorant.
And I hope he remembers his mama loves him.
On May 3, 2015 I read this essay on the stage at the Manship Theater in Baton Rouge as part of the cast of Listen To Your Mother 2015. It was one of the top ten days of my life.
You may view the entire LTYM: Baton Rouge 2015 show by clicking here.
To learn more about Listen To Your Mother, visit their website or YouTube channel.
This is so beautiful, it’s given me something to think about. Thank you! I’m going to go celebrate my mama now. 🙂
Geared up when I read this. Very touching.
I will celebrate your mama, too. Thanks for stopping by.
When my man-in-law hugged me much longer than he should have and whispered “I love you” to my daughter over my shoulder, I knew that both I and his mom had done our jobs well. I am blessed beyond measure.
It is funny how our jobs and perception of them change. So beautifully put: Roots and wings, please and thank you, and remember that your momma loves you — those don’t ever change. Reading and listening to your words was the perfect way to start a day where I woke up thinking about my baby boy turning 28 tomorrow. You brightened my day and put light in my heart and I thank you!
Those words make me so happy, Capt! You have now brightened my day and put light in my heart. And happy birthday to your baby boy.
A wise mama…and such a lovely lovely piece. Blessings to you and to him!
Thank you, Carol. I don’t always feel like a wise mama, but I do always love my boys.
We will worry about our children until the day we die. I don’t know you, but just by reading your words, I believe this man is going to be just fine, mom. Brenda
Thank you for the kind words, Brenda. I hope with all I have that you are right. 🙂
Beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. My son just moved out on his own, it is such a happy and sad moment all rolled into one!
I understand. I never understood the term bittersweet until my oldest left the nest.
That was wonderful. My son just turned 14 several days ago, and just started towering over me a few months ago – his voice changing. So I am starting to feel more of what you just wrote about. Thanks for always being a few steps ahead so that I have time to process what it will be like!!
Hi, Heather! So good to hear from you. Hard to believe your boy is 14. But it’s harder to believe mine has left my nest. When my boys were just toddlers a wise friend told me to always think of each stage as the “best stage.” You keep the memories of the years that have past and the anticipation of the years ahead. I’ve always loved that philosophy.
What awesome wisdom! Thanks for that.
Oh my goodness that made me cry too. I am so proud of the men by two sons have become but I often look at my grandsons and swear it was just a moment ago that I had a cute little boy that didn’t want to leave my side.
I’m so ready for grandkids! Being proud of the adults our kids have become is the greatest satisfaction there is.
This was so beautiful it made me cry. I looked at my oldest son recently and realized that he had become a man without me noticing – it’s such a humbling moment when you realize that your job is done.
Mostly done. At least for me. He still needs my counsel (whether he realizes it or not). Let’s cherish these men who were once our boys!