I can still remember the conversation, though I doubt he does. He was 15 and was pondering his future. “I just don’t feel this town has anything for me.” he said. “Right now you are a big fish in a small pond” I replied. “Someday, you will be a small fish in a big pond.” I just never imagined it would be an Ocean.
My son lives in China. He teaches at a university in Hangzhou.
Most days I have to remind myself of this. He is no longer just 10 hours away at school. He is oceans away, across continents and time zones. When people find out he lives there( already 2 years) they ask me “how could you let him move there?” That is usually the part I laugh, because, that has never been how we deal with our son.
I like to describe my son as George Bailey, from It’s a Wonderful Life. When George is sitting at the dinner table with his father, and his dad says to him ” you were born older, George.” that is how I see my son. An old soul, searching, yearning for more.We have video of him at 18 months, drawing faces and shapes and asking me to do the same. “What shape is this Tony?” I would say. “Octagon” he would mutter with his pacifier hanging from his mouth.Then it was dinosaurs. “Draw an Ornitholestes mom.” I would have to look up what the heck he was talking about.He knew them all, by 3. It was always something, he just craved learning and knowing more.
My husband and myself are not big on far off adventures or traveling . Heck if we go a few hours away, we consider ourselves lucky.When the kids were growing up we took them on vacations, but usually just “up north”. So where he got the urge to travel and see the world I will never know. In his almost 25 years he has become a world traveler. His first out of the country trip came when he was 16, to Germany, with the high school. In my mind that is when it happened. His need to see the world. In college he studied abroad in Austria, and saw many of the surrounding countries over there. One of his Bachelor degrees is in German studies, so we assumed( and you know what they say about people who assume!) that possibly he would end up there, and we were okay with that. As okay as a parent can be with a child living out of the country, I guess. So when he sprung China on us,I couldn’t breathe.China. Either we are horrid parents and he is trying to get to the exact opposite side of the world from us, or we did a pretty good job. The jury is still out.
He graduated from college the Spring of 2014, and I watched the days on the calendar turn until his departure in August. How can he just go to a country, not knowing a soul, at the time only knowing a little of the language. How can he be so sure of himself? How can he be so determined? We took him to the airport, hugged him at security, and tried not to lose it until we got to the car. We barely unlocked the doors to the vehicle when not only did the skies open up and begin to pour, but so did our eyes. And there in a car in the airport parking lot, my husband and I cried our eyes and hearts out.Our son was moving across the world.
Now, our means of communication are Facebook or Skype. I joke with him about not responding to my posts to him, or not returning my messages. One time I sent him a message asking if he wanted to Skype soon. He responded 10 days later, “can’t right now mom, I am working.” Sometimes I will simply send a message asking if he is dead, which usually garners a faster response. I can still work that Mothers guilt thing when I want to.I find myself sometimes incredibly envious of the parents who have adult kids that have decided to stay close to “home”. The ones who have their kids and grandchildren over for dinner, or take trips together. They have no idea how blessed they are. But then I remember that conversation from 10 years ago.
Last night we Skyped with him, after almost a month of little to no communication. It was great to hear his voice and see he is happy. Two of his brothers were also there to talk with him. As usual he lit up when he saw his “puppies”. I asked my usual questions like” when are there going to be grandbabies?” At one point, my husband asked him if he ever had Lemon iced tea. “You see guys, this is why we shouldn’t talk every day, this is what we would have to talk about!”he said.Maybe he is right. Maybe for him, he is confident in the love we have for him, that nothing, not time, or distance will change that. He knows we will always be here, in the small pond,supporting him and his next adventure. I keep asking how long he plans on staying there, to which he responds “when I am completely fluent in the language.” I have no clue how long that takes, but I also know, he will never come “home” to live. After China I am sure there will be some other place he will need to be. A new adventure. A need to learn something new about somewhere new, to calm his old soul.But sometimes, a mom just needs to hear a voice and see a face to keep her treading water to stay afloat.