I started prepping the Iowan early. “We’ll hug him, then walk away.”
Mr. Boudreaux’s dad had cried at the end of his high school graduation, I mean really cried. This was after the Iowan spent parts of the evening trying to get me to leave early. “You can’t be interested in hearing all of this,” he said.
Then, the 90 seniors climbed the stage steps for last pictures. Our only child Mr. B. was bunched in back with his boy pack, arms thrown over shoulders. It was beautiful and wrenching. While taking photos, I noticed his dad’s tears. “This is the very last time they will ever do this. It just hit me.”
The Iowan was losing it. He is tall and hard to miss. Internal mother alarms shrieked: Warning, teenager humiliation. I took the Iowan’s hand and joined the slow line to the exit. For the last time, we read Mr. B.’s senior quote, painted on the wall just outside the gym. “When things get too heavy, just call me helium, the lightest known gas to man.” Jimi Hendrix.
Then, too fast, it was college move-in day. We got up at O-dark-30 and headed south. Several hours later, we were moving Mr. B. into the dorm. The roommates put clothes away while parents sweated and wrestled gear. The helpful RA from North Carolina kept referring to me as “Miss Alabama.” A graduate student dropped by to check laptop connections. He told us the weather was terrible during his first move-in day and his parents got into a huge fight so he couldn’t wait for them to leave.
When we couldn’t think of anything else to do, we took the boys to dinner. Then we dropped them off, back at the dorm.
It was time. I hugged Mr. B. tight and whispered, “Fly high, free bird,” my version of a goodbye joke. Dad and son hugged, shook hands and exchanged I love you’s. The Iowan and I turned and retreated, crisply. We were holding it together. All business.
A few heartbeats later, I looked back. Mr. B. had turned around and was watching us walk away, a little smile on his face. His eyes were shiny with tears.