The Intensity of Waiting

My son is coming home tomorrow. My son, my son, my son, my son!  It was not a small trip.  With a group of eighth grade classmates and their teacher, they traveled as volunteers to an orphanage in the third world.  The preparations lasted for months: gathering donations of sheets and towels and clothes; raising money; getting typhoid shots and malaria pills, packing everything on the list, even rice and pasta.  And now they are coming home.

Of course my son will not want to come home.  Why should he?  Living in his own hogar with seven girls and seven boys, why should he want to come back to his parental home?  Living in the sun, close to the earth, and walking everywhere; why should he want to come home to riding in the car, to the cold rains of April, and to the endless  homework night after night? I know he will be sad to come home.

The seven boys and girls are his comrades: seven youths and seven maidens.  It reminds me of the tribute King Aigeus sent to Crete every year: seven boys and seven girls for the Minotaur to devour.  But there is no Minotaur here, no cruel King Minos with his fearsome labyrinth.  The boys and girls are not sent to feed a monster, but to be nourished themselves by the love of six hundred orphan children.  He will be sad to come home.

Did Theseus think of his father when he was in Crete?  He went with his fourteen comrades, he killed the beast, he captured the princess’ love, and he lost her on the homeward journey. Did he think of his father when he was sailing home?  Did he think of his father’s anguished waiting? Of course not, and the story tells us so.  He forgot to take down the black sails.

I do not expect my son to think of me.  He will not be happy to come home.  He will not hug me at the airport.  But if he comes home sad and gloomy; if he comes home in a ship with black sails, I will not jump off a cliff.  I will welcome him home in silence if I must.  I will rejoice inside.  The mother’s wish is this: after the journey, the child comes home safe and sleeps at night under the same roof until it is time for him to leave again.

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