It's been eleven months since I last posted, so let's dust this thing off and go for a month of daily posts again! Last year on November 2nd, I posted pictures of my son as he was sworn into the United States Marine Corps. Today, my barely 18 year old son is wrapping up his last month of boot camp in San Diego at Camp Pendleton.
The year leading up to Alex's departure was tough on me. The littlest things could prompt crying jags, and I spent the better part of Labor Day weekend in tears. Alex's platoon had the final swearing in ceremony on the field before the Minnesota Twins baseball game on Labor Day. This elevated an already momentous occasion to new emotional levels for me. My husband, who is stepfather to Alex and his twin siblings, was just as emotional as I...possibly worse, since I practically cried myself dry at some point the day before Alex's final swearing in ceremony.
The young men and women marched on to the field, accompanied by several Marines who themselves were sworn in at a Twins game in 1967. The author of a book about their experience in Vietnam, Christy Sauro, Jr., was among them.
I packed extra handkerchiefs, which proved useful when Alex's name was emblazoned on the scoreboard.
Afterwards, the Marines treated family members to a lovely rooftop reception at Seven, a sky bar in downtown Minneapolis. The weather was flawless. I looked at the young men and women sworn in with Alex...none seemed old enough for the enormous responsibility ahead. They looked both confident and nervous, certainly still coasting on the ovation and outpouring of gratitude shown them at the baseball game three hours earlier.
I hugged my son more that last weekend than I had in the last five years combined. His last words to me before he joined his platoon mates, were "See you in thirteen weeks!" He smiled broadly, and I wept as I remembered him as a five year old, climbing on to the school bus for the first time. He climbed the bus stairs and never looked back. That was the first time I truly realized...they're all going to leave one day...the diapers, the little shoes, the Matchbox cars and Legos...it's all temporary. Someday, I realized that morning thirteen years ago, I will have to say goodbye for real. September 6th was the first goodbye. It's clear to me that my son is never again going to need his mom...at least in the role I've held the last 18 years. I'm sure he'll ask my advice, and hopefully my duties as a grandmother will be called on at some point, but he doesn't need my permission, or approval, or financial support any more. That is sad, but that is a job well done, too.
The letters from boot camp are both hilarious and worrisome, but I can sense a maturity in my oldest son that wasn't there in August. I'll bring a bale of handkerchiefs with me to Camp Pendleton, because I know Alex's transformation will bring a new wave of tears-both joyful and sad.