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"Forward!", by Susana Laborde-Blaj

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

The taste of the still warm cherry tomatoes was so sweet and delicious. I grabbed them this afternoon from the plant, and they felt really alive in my mouth, warm from the sun, generously giving me all of their flavor. I was aware, though, that this special treat is coming to an end, at least for this year. The leaves of the blueberry bushes already turned color, we already ate all the prunes, even the grapes that are left are turning small and dry.

Our youngest son just moved to college. Not just, really, he has been in college for a few weeks. He is a man now. Our two sons are men now, young men, but men nevertheless. Did I say the word men three times in the last sentence? That is how shocking it is! Not shocking, really, but immense, big, difficult for me to process. Gladly it is a wonderful thing to process, and for this I am very, very, very grateful. I just wrote three times the word very, to make it clear how grateful I am.

In the bed and breakfast where we stayed when we accompanied our son to his new home (“Dorm, Sweet Dorm” is written in a lovely sign at his door), we met a woman who was also taking her child, in this case a young woman, to college. She said a friend of hers could notice how she was experiencing a lot of emotions at once, and challenged her to define what she was feeling with one word. She could not, of course. (I just learned there are six “Universal Emotions” recognized: Happiness, Sadness, Surprise, Fear, Disgust and Anger)

I told her about the moment we said goodbye to our oldest son (I prefer the French term “au revoir” or “hasta la vista” in Spanish). It was a hot, humid and sunny Saturday, three summers ago.

My son and I noticed at some point, during our visit to his now hometown, that it was time we let him explore the new city, the world, the University, that it was time to say goodbye. In the moment we were having this conversation we were at the Farmer’s Market, and my husband, completely ignorant of the subject we were discussing, was buying cheese.

Slightly hesitant, I looked at a statue that was right at our side, the statue of a woman pointing at something in the distance, with her extended arm, her body looking strong and determined, almost implacable. I thought to myself, “I will read the name of this statue, it will tell me what to do”. Its name was: “Forward”

No need for more words. We did say goodbye there, in spite of my husband’s shock and reluctance.

And a few weeks ago we said goodbye again, this time to our youngest son: Forward.

I placed the cherry tomatoes, warm from the sun, into a very pretty bowl our youngest son gave me (that has a very original drawing of a cat, inside and out), along with some baby carrots. In another bowl, actually made by our son, I put tuna fish, spinach, some olives, olive oil, lentils and organic feta cheese. The sun was still warm in my back, as I sat at the deck, knowing that there were just a few more times in the year that I would do this again.

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