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A Total Eclipse of my Son

*This essay was written five years ago*

Will the two-dimensional cardboard and plastic “glasses” we borrowed from our friends really be enough to shield us from the potentially blinding light of the sun, moon, and Earth aligned in perfect orbit? It’s so rare, so fleeting, so fascinating, and beautiful, but seems so risky, so dangerous, what with all the hype and whatsapp buzzing….

For most residents of this patch on the planet, August 21st has been awaited as the day of the fantastic solar eclipse- people flock to various nature sites to get the perfect view of this amazing celestial event. But for our family, the eclipse happening tonight is my firstborn son flying our nest.

We are running around, packing, erranding, preparing, for the flight that will take him half way across the world for his higher studies. He will be away from us for a full year. He is 18 years old now- mature, responsible, thoughtful, intelligent, and capable. But until now, we’ve been his sun- his source, his center, giving him life and light, warming and nourishing his world thought the rays of our values, protection, and beliefs.

He’s been our moon- receiving, evolving, growing, changing, reflecting the behaviors, messages, and meaning he imbibed in our home. We’ve tried to provide for him as best we could- physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. But like the sun, the moon, and outer space, I enjoy and appreciate the beauty I can see, but I don’t really have any idea what’s truly happening in the depths of it all. He just turned 18 this month, and he’s ready to launch. It’s time. The care and preparation of almost two decades worth of love and protection is going out into the world, to make his own way, spread his own light.

We always knew the day would come, but nobody ever feels ready for it. That our world would tilt on its axis, grow dark for a bit, and we’d be afraid- it’s hard to look at. But now it’s here. These flimsy glasses are not enough to shield my heart from the little fissure of pain, my watery eyes from the glare of the realness of it all. As we take him to the airport tonight, for an hour or so we will all be there at once- the parents, the adventurous little boy and the freshly minted, handsome young man- on the threshold of a shiny new beginning. He will venture onto the plane, into the sky, across the oceans, and into the big, wide, world. We will gaze admiringly through shimmery lenses of hope and faith, a little tinted by fear and loss, but we will try to be strong and see the beauty and the light.

The eclipse is almost over now. We keep dipping onto the porch for another peek, in between labeling shirts, packing linens, stirring pasta, and wiping tears. The sun now just looks like someone took a little bite out of it. But it will be whole again soon enough, along with my heart. These are happy changes.

Our sun and our son will still be there after the eclipse. The orbit of our family and our Earth hasn’t really changed so perceptibly. All the players are still there, doing their part in the circle of life. But we will have seen something rare and exquisite. We are deeper, stronger, wiser, more fragile and more resilient. There are no glasses to protect us from these feelings, so we will gaze right into their light. We will appreciate our sun and our son in a new way. Tomorrow, after all is said and done, they will both rise again- and so will we.

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