Priceless. Seen in his smile. Seen on his hands.
When my 21 year-old son contacted me from halfway around the world to ask for funds to cover the photographs for his tandem sky-dive, my mind went in three directions. My first thought – doesn’t he know he’s not supposed to tell his mother until after he jumped
The second was that, of course, he is going to jump. I can’t stop him. After all, he’s the young man who as a toddler scaled the top of jungle gyms and rock walls. He’s the young man who grew up skiing black diamond steeps and navigating moguls with the same ease as if he were walking around parked cars. He has white-water rafted the Colorado, galloped across the Grand Tetons, ridden out a tropical hurricane on an 88-foot schooner, night-dived in phosphorescent Caribbean waters, and zip lined across rainforest valleys.
The third was more pragmatic. If you think the pictures are worth it, I told him, ask your dad. It seemed so out of character, as though he was falling prey to a tourist sales pitch. So in addition to his father being the one managing the traveling funds, I needed someone else to share the on-the-ground worries of waiting for “the boy” to get both feet back on the ground and tease out why these particular photos were so important.
I wasn’t surprised. The gene for calculated risk-taking adventure is in his DNA. I hitchhiked through Europe when I was 18 and camped my way through the former USSR a few years later. His father caught a freighter to Patagonia, lived in a rural Nepalese village and backpacked his way through the White Mountains in his early 20s. While neither of us ever leapt out of a plane, his uncle did.
I waited. I watched the clock, checking for postings of a safe arrival. My mind traveled to those bitter-sweet departures at airports, hugging him tightly before he left to board his plane. I prayed he’d come back safely. He always had. Thoughts turned to the parents who have sent their children off to school, to field trips and college visits, to the movies or marathons – and their children never returned. One of my son’s friends fell to his death on the other side of the country – my son was now traveling even farther away. I kept telling myself, I can’t go to the “what if” place. I had to trust he’d land with all intact.
His jump from 12,000 feet with 45 seconds of free fall took place on a Thursday morning, Wednesday at 6pm my time. When I learned he landed, I relaxed.
The next morning, I awoke to the message: check Facebook. There was the picture. A smile blazed on my son’s face as he hung in mid-air, a soft green New Zealand river valley nestled among mountain peaks below him. Then I noticed his fists bumped together, writing visible on the back of each hand. I dissolved into laughter and tears. With pride tinged with relief, I realized I could let go of whether he values all he has been given. That photo told me all I needed to know about my boy’s transition into young manhood.
There, written on one hand, was THANKS. On the other, MOM + DAD.
Captured forever at 11,000 feet in the air. Priceless.
Sue is a dynamic and seasoned media profession with 20+ years of communications experience. She is the founder and director of WorldViewsMedia, a boutique public relations, research and educational firm serving the non-profit, film and journalist communities. She is also a trainer, editor, photographer, filmmaker, conference organizer and global traveler. In spare moments, she teaches skiing and yoga.