I wanted them to be memorable and eloquently inspiring, those last words that would be imprinted in his mind forever as I left him in his new college home. Through a gush of tears they poured out without warning: “No permanent damage!” Then, as if flood gates opened for the final time, the spewing continued: “No unexpected trips to the hospital. No time in jail. No babies and absolutely no tattoos!”
Profound? No. Desperate? Maybe. True to the core? Yes. But, certainly not eloquent nor inspiring, just plain raw footage. Those were my last words of wisdom to my 18-year-old son heading off to a new chapter in Boston.
When I reflect on this advice I cringe thinking how it could have been much better. I remember my neighbor, Mark, who stopped by before we left with what now seems like perfect collegiate-bound advice.
“Keep your wallet in your front pocket,” Mark said. “Don’t set your drink down at a party or someone may put something in it, and don’t step off the curb. They’ll run you over!”
Now, that’s wisdom. Mark knew. He spoke clearly and confidently with experience to back it up. Mark was from New York. My son needed this advice. Book smarts he possessed; street smarts were yet to be acquired.
Nate grew up in sheltered Carmel where drivers become politely paralyzed at four-way stops, trying to outdo one another with kind waving and waiting. This would not happen on the East Coast. Nate would get plowed down, robbed or lost somewhere in this new big city. He needed wisdom that could not be found in a book.
But, as I pulled away, a peaceful assurance came over me and my tears turned to a smile as his response lingered with me.
“Okay, mom, I promise,” he said. “I won’t bring a baby with a tattoo home for Thanksgiving!”
Yes, it’s time for him to fly.