Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

I’m leavin’ on a jet plane

I don't know when I'll be back again.

My son, Adam, my wife, and I are at the airport. A group of high school students is sitting in a circle a few yards away singing.

Adam is 17. He is a shy child - young man. But people warm to him. He has a very close group of friends at home. Years later, as a lay minister, he will officiate several of their weddings. But now he is leaving them, and us. He is waiting to board a plane to spend the school year in Spain. As has been his manner since early childhood birthday parties, he initially sits with us, observing the activity in front of him.

My wife asks, “Adam, are you sure you want do this?”

“If I don’t go now, when will I?” he responds.

I am truly in awe. Terrified, but in awe.  I think, “Do you know what you’re doing?” but he does. He is intelligent and sensitive. And he was there too.

The day before his initial departure date - a week earlier - I had gotten turned around looking for our hotel. I stop at the information desk of a large office complex. The receptionist, obviously foreign-born, directs me toward the north exit. I turn in that direction; a young maintenence engineer stops me. “You want the Financial District, right?” I do. “He don’t know nothing; that’s why he’s at the information desk. C’mon, I’ll show you.” We walk and talk -  he’s a Yankee fan, but his real passion is hating the Red Sox. He lives in Queens - not as expensive there. Tomorrow is his daughter’s ninth birthday. They’ll celebrate when he gets off work. We shake hands and part at the exit.

Now at the airport a week later, Adam quietly rises and walks over to a girl he met in the open house a few months earlier. She greets him warmly and slides over to welcome him into the circle.

So kiss me and smile for me

Hold me like you'll never let me go

With Adam safely nestled in with his group of fledgings, I wander to the gift shop. I see a souvenir - a snow shaker of two planes circling the The World Trade Center. Very cute - last week. Now it is horrifying.

(Contact p-pasulka@northwestern.edu for full text).