Thursday, November 5, 2009

Taking Flight

As I write this, my son--the younger of my two kids, who works in the International Services Department of the American Red Cross, in DC--is embarking on his first job-related trip. A week in Kathmandu, a couple of days in Bangkok, a week in Hanoi, then home. Over the weekend, I joked with him that I was alternating between being excited for him and wondering if I'd have any fingernails left by the time he gets home. We laughed. But there was a little part of me that meant it about the fingernails.

When I first started sending out manuscripts in the late 1980s, I used to think it was kind of like sending a child off into the world. Each time, I did my Children's Writers and Illustrators Market homework, so I'd be sending my baby to a publisher that looked like a good match. I proofread carefully. I made sure that manuscript was as ready to go as possible. Still, when I handed over the envelope and my money to the post office clerk, there was always the wondering in the back of my mind: Would it be loved? Would it be treated well? Appreciated? Abused? Would anyone even notice it was there?

Even though my son has been living on his own for just about a year now, tonight I have that old feeling. I'm sending one of my most precious creations off into the wide, wide world. I've done my homework--I've printed out his flight itinerary (and written on it the time zone differences). My two-time-zone watch has new batteries. I've located Qatar, where he'll have a 12-hr layover on his way to Kathmandu. I've read a little about each of the places he's going to. He's done his homework, too, and is as ready to go as possible. I know that, because in the past couple of days I've been enough of a loving mom to ask if he had this or that, reminded him to unfold his lanky 6'6" self out of his economy-class seat and walk around now and then, and probably seemed a bit of a noodge. And he's been enough of a loving son not to say so.

When he was just a toddler, we sat together looking at National Geographic magazine and books about far-away places and watching the adventures of television travelers--Rick Steves, and the travelers on Lonely Planet, now called Globe Trekker. He'll be having his own adventures now, and blogging about his trip on the Red Cross' website. If his posts are anything like the blog he kept during the semester he spent in Switzerland his junior year in college, they should be really good reading.

As for me, I'll be having my own, smaller, adventures--finishing up a picture book, and seeing what kind of trouble the main character of my novel-in-progress can get into. And quietly counting the days until what I'm sending out tonight comes back.