The only worry I had last night was that I won’t hear my alarm clock and then Reggie would miss his 6:30 a.m. flight to New York. So I told him to also set his alarm just in case I don’t hear mine. I did go to bed earlier than usual. I was in bed at 10:30 p.m. That was way too early for me as I usually go to bed at 1:00 a.m.
I did hear the alarm when it went off at 3:30 a.m. I fixed breakfast while Reggie was in the shower. I woke up his dad at 4:00 and we were all in the car by 4:30. Reggie had to be at the airport at 5:15.
As I sat at the front seat, I thought, so this is it. After months of preparing for this trip, he was finally leaving. We were just pulling up to Henderson Highway when my eyes started to well up and tears rolled down my cheeks.
I was just talking to Lisa yesterday about Reggie leaving and how I cried when he first went away to winter camp in sixth grade. And he was only gone for three days then. And how I still cry whenever he goes out of town on these band competitions and festivals. “I know it’s silly,” I told her. “But I just can’t help it.” She said she also knew about the grade six winter camping and that she thinks that she would also cry when it’s her son’s turn to go, which is still in two years since he’s only in fourth grade now.
I know I told Lisa that I always cry. But I also thought that maybe since I already talked about it, perhaps I wouldn’t cry anymore this time. But there we were, just a couple of blocks from home and I was already crying. Then again, I thought, it’s good that I let these tears out now while I’m still in the car, get it over with and maybe I won’t cry at the airport anymore.
We got there in time. Some of the kids were already there. There were also a few parents. The three chaperones were also there. Reggie met up with his friends. They were taking turns getting their boarding passes on the electronic machine. Then they checked in their baggage. I saw Iian’s dad and chatted with him for a while.
At around 5:30 a.m., the principal, who was also going with them to New York, told them to gather upstairs at the second floor. They could buy coffee if they wanted and they would wait there until 6:00. My husband and I also went upstairs and so did the other parents.
The kids, or I should say the teen-agers, gathered together talking amongst themselves. Reggie was talking to Iian and their friends. Some sat down with their parents. I saw one of the boys had his arms around his mother, her head against his shoulder. I could tell that he was consoling her. I knew how she was feeling. When she walked away, I saw her wipe her eyes. Then one of the girls told her, “It’s a good thing. We’ll be back real soon.” The mom asked her something. And then she said, “My dad dropped me off.” But I bet you that her own mom must also be feeling a little bit lonely even though this trip is a good experience for these kids.
At around 6:00 a.m., the principal said, “Alright ladies and gentlemen, we have to check in at the gate now. Don’t just turn away. Wave to your parents or give them a hug.” I’m glad that she said that. Iian stood up from his seat, followed by Reggie. Iian went up to his dad and gave him a hug. Reggie went towards me and also gave me a hug. He doesn’t usually hug me but I’m glad that he did. I hugged him back and stroked his back. “Okay, you go now,” I told him in my crackling voice. Darn, I should have brought the box of Kleenex with me.
We still followed them up to the departure gate. “I want to go too,” one of the dads said. “Me too,” I said. I asked Iian’s dad if he had ever been to New York. He said no. I said that I have never been to anywhere. Then he said, “Yes, you have traveled halfway around the world.” I said, “Well, yeah, but that’s different.” He said, “of course, that’s for family reasons.” And then we talked about how these kids are lucky that they get this opportunity to travel while they are still young. We never had anything like this when we were still in school.
At around 6:15 a.m. they were all checked in. My husband said that he’d go to the washroom before we leave. I also said that I would go. And of course, once I was alone by myself, I started to cry again. Darn it, I only have two sheets of Kleenex left in my purse. I rolled out a long piece of toilet paper and used it to wipe my tears and blow my nose. Looking at the mirror, I tried to fix myself up before I went out.
Somehow the drive back home took longer. He took a different path. We were still driving when the clock read 6:30 a.m. They are taking off now, I thought. Tears just kept flowing and I cried silently in the car, wiping my tears with my hand, trying to save my remaining tissues.
I know that he’d be back before I know it and that this experience is really good for him especially since he’s pursuing a career in jazz music. I also know that I should let him spread his wings but it’s just too darn hard to let go.
This is the River East Collegiate’s senior jazz band, one of the 15 finalists in the 12th Annual Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival at Jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York City. This is the only Canadian group that made it to the finals so we are very proud of these young talented musicians.