As I write this, J is winging his way across this country to join one cousin and 4 million of his closest friends on the Mall in Washington (that's DC) on Tuesday for the Inauguration. This trip, with my 18-year-old politically interested nephew, has been planned for almost a year--far longer than we've known which person would take the oath of office, or that half the known world (or so it seems) would also crowd the streets of our capital to witness it. J's very engaged in the political process, and, even though he didn't vote for the new president (nor the other guy, for that matter--he was far too disappointed by the timbre of the campaign by the end), he didn't actually care. To see an Inauguration, to witness the smooth transfer of power and the pagentry with which it's done, all this appeals to my son who would love to be involved in politics, one way or another, someday. And my nephew is even more engaged in the political conversation, if possible. Though these young men haven't ever spent any time alone together (they have danced in kilts together at a wedding or two in the last year, so I'm not implying they're strangers), they have a lot in common--both well read, both VERY opinionated, both eager to learn.
The difficulties of this particular moment, however, are not small. With so many people thronging the city, cell-phone towers will be overrun, so people are encouraged to text, rather than call, causing my very techno-retarded sister to learn to text (I'm an old hand in comparison, even have a keyboard on my phone, thank God!). We thought about roping the boys up so they wouldn't lose each other in the crowd, but somehow, they weren't fans of this idea. Go figure! Hotel rooms filled up quickly, too, so they only have a room for tonight and tomorrow. After that, they're on their own...just kidding! I called Beve's step-sister, and they're going to bunk at her house in Columbia, Maryland, for a couple nights, adding a commute among the millions to the complications of the week.
All in all, it isn't an optimal first unsupervised trip, at least from a semi-worried mother's point of view. J has done some traveling by himself, but not across the country, and not trying to navigate a strange city with all those people. Once again I'm faced with the cords that stretch only one way with my children. They don't see them, know that they're connected to my heart by rope. J will call me along the way--he's well-trained, after all--but he has repeatedly told me the last few days, when I've worried about his money, outerwear, maps of the metro, and all things between, that he'll be fine. He'll be fine...me? I'm not so sure.
I know, I know, friends of mine have had kids go off on much bigger, less safe adventures than this. Shoot, I plugged my nose and dove into Europe when I was just older than J, and didn't even call my parents for six weeks! But, worry, like pain, is relative. By that I mean it doesn't matter what other people experience, we live within our own bodies, and have to live through our stuff, not theirs. It may be that one person has to go to bed for a week with a hangnail, while another walks around without noticing a broken ankle. The point is, we are who we are. We bear what we bear, not what others do. Comparisons are odious (I can't remember who said that, but have learned the truth of it repeatedly!).
So I will be equal parts worry and excitement for my son and nephew. Pray for traveling mercies for them as they fly, and even more as they walk around Washington. Pray for a good spot in which to glimpse history, standing shoulder to shoulder with others who made the same pilgrimage.