Monday, August 11, 2014

The Return of the Pilgrim

My typical weekday afternoon conversations with my 15-year-old son usually go something like this:

Me: How was school today?
Boy: Good. (exits to play basketball in the driveway)

Or this:

Me: How was school today?
Boy: (grunting noise; exits to play basketball in the driveway)

So it was a slightly new and improved teenage son I encountered upon his return home from a seven-day trip to Oregon this week, one who was a bit more outgoing and confident. He traveled west with his church youth group on a pilgrimage that has been two years in the making. It was the first time he'd traveled for any great distance or time without a parent or other family member with him.

It was interesting to hear him speak with great animation, detail, and excitement about exploring tide pools on the Oregon coastline, about the beauty of the waterfalls he saw along their hiking trails, and about "riding the bull" on the rapids of the DesChutes River. There are photographs of that last one. It involves riding the raft with your legs hanging over the front of the raft. In one, all I could see were his feet and rushing whitewater. It was all safe and properly supervised, but I think I have a couple of extra gray hairs.

 He also led the group in a vespers service one evening and presented their local leader with a group gift. On the way home, during a layover in Chicago's O'Hare Airport, the boy saw former University of Connecticut basketball star D'Andre Daniels. He introduced himself to Daniels, told him how much he enjoyed watching him during UConn's epic run to the national championship last spring, and asked him to pose for a picture of the two of them together.

All of this adds up to a boy becoming a man who is comfortable in his own skin. I probably will never hear every detail of the trip. There are some things that belong just to him. But I had two big fears as I put him on the plane last week: 1) That he would miss me and 2) That he wouldn't. Neither of my fears came to pass. He thoroughly enjoyed his experience and returned home happy to see me.

I think I handled all of this quite well.