I took my son to the airport the other day; he started the Spring Break College Hunting Trip a few days before I could get away. He's an experienced traveler, and took off from the curbside, bag in tow. I was awash in memories of his first solo trip, 10 years ago, this very Spring Break. He was going to stay with his grandparents while I had surgery which we hoped would...and did...cure my cancer. He was a half a year too young to fly alone; his frequent flying grandfather had charmed some airline executive into giving permission for this cross-country, emergency trip.
This was before the days of personal movies, and my son was not yet reading for pleasure. I worried about what he would do for four hours, all by himself, strapped into his seat. A teenaged friend had loaned him a gameboy and I had supplied him with changes of batteries that I wasn't sure he could manage. I walked him all the way to the gate and handed him over to the flight attendant, who, seeing my tears, hustled him down the jetway and out of sight before I could remind him about the batteries.
My parents called later that evening to say that they had collected him on their end with ease, and handed the phone over. "Did you have enough batteries for the gameboy?" I asked. "Oh, I didn't play that." "Really? What did you do?" "I talked to the man sitting next to me. We talked about Star Wars".
I breathed a little prayer of thanksgiving to a traveler who, probably wanting to take a nap or get some work done, had instead taken pity on a little boy who needed somebody to talk to on his first, long journey. I'm grateful to this day. He returned home 10 days later, an experienced traveler, with his grandmother in tow; she took care of us all for a while before things lapsed back, slowly, into the new normal that falls around us all after the difficulties of our lives have made us ever more aware of our gratitude for families and friends, for healing and joy, and even for strangers.
Tomorrow I join my college-hunter in Baltimore and we take off on one of those "If it's Thursday, it must be New York" sorts of trips, and I'll begin it in gratitude.