NPR reported that holiday traffic deaths are down from last year. Yes, that’s good news. But any sentence with holiday and death together gives me the heebie-jeebies. You see, I am the parent of a college-aged kid. And every parent of a college-aged kid has what I call the “nervous wreck” days.
The nervous wreck day is when you are going about your business–doing down dogs in yoga, getting to the office, checking your email, etc.–but all the while you have one, all-consuming thought. That bedeviling, anxiety-provoking thought:
“____(fill in the blank with your child’s name) is _____(driving home, flying home, taking the bus/train home) today, just in time for ____(Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas). I hope (he, she) will have a safe trip!
You get used to your child being hundreds or thousands of miles away, going to college, and you try not to think too hard about how you spent some of your college days (me: sound asleep and drooling on my Biology textbook during a 7:30 a.m. lecture).
What I think you don’t get used to are the travel days.
Take my son, Sam, for example. Sometimes he flies. That’s okay, although I breathe a sigh of relief when I know he’s on the ground again. Sometimes he drives with a friend. It’s an eight hour drive from his liberal arts college in western Pennsylvania. During that entire 8 hour journey, I’m not exactly throwing up with anxiety, but I’m not relaxed.
What I’m warming up to saying is this: Sam came home last night for the fifth night of Hanukkah. Every hour leading up to his bursting through the door, dragging a duffel bag full of dirty laundry, I thought of him and sent out a Mom’s heartfelt wish for his safe return.
Enough oil to light a lamp for eight days–it’s a wonderful miracle.
But I’ll take the ordinary miracles, too. Sam’s grinning face as I sling him a blue and white cookie, as he peels back the gold foil on the gelt, and, alas, as the doorbell rings–it’s his high school friends come a calling. There they go, driving off into the night.
Soon after that, my son Harry is standing before me, jingling the car keys. He has just gotten his night-driving permit. Great. ”You’ll be home by eleven, right? You’ll drive carefully, right?”
Harry smiles; he nods. Then he, too, is gone.
On this sixth night of Hanukkah, I wish you all ordinary and extraordinary miracles and many happy homecomings.