The train was late, as usual. Only a few minutes but for some reason, the fact that it was behind schedule gave me faith. I wanted ordinary things to happen. My son was heading off on to hike from Yosemite to Oregon on a trail that was mostly on fire. I had no faith in adventure. I wanted boring. Lots of boring.
Dylan and I waited with the other passengers. He told me how confident he was about this trip. He felt overly prepared. He thought he might have to ship some of his supplies back to us. I wished I shared his attitude. Apparently, worrying is the mother’s job, not the son’s job. Our roles were clear.
My fears were not ungrounded. My son was hiking on a trail that was often deserted, rife with wildlife and currently closed down in areas where some of the largest wildfires in California’s history are blazing. The recent earthquake in Santa Rosa triggered fires that could not be stopped because a water main had snapped. Add a record breaking drought to that and you have the makings of mom-sized ulcer before my son even steps on the train.
Ahead of us, this family dynamic was flipped. A father was heading off to Sacramento and his wife and 11 year old son were seeing him off. The son was worried. He kept asking questions.
“When will we know when you get there?”
“How long is the train ride?”
“When are you going to call us?”
The dad took his questions in stride. He smiled and calmly gave him logical and reassuring answers. It was clear that he had made this trip before.
Once the train reached the station, I said goodbye to my 23 year old. No embarrassing kisses or tears. Just a hug and well wishes. He accepted it with warmth. Then he boarded the train without looking back.
I thought of the fires and the bears and the perils of unpleasant human interactions and started a swimming panic. I know my son is competent. He has taken years of martial arts, checked the trail on the website and has his food packed in a bear-proof container. He has a solar charger so we can keep track of him. I want him to have interesting tales to tell. I just I don’t want him to get hurt. So much could happen.
The train started to leave the station and then applied its brakes before the last car had moved past the baggage barn. The porters got out. The station attendants trotted toward the middle car. A door opened. “What now?” I asked myself. My imagination rattled.
The wife and son of the gentleman traveler ahead of us in line, jumped off the train. The son looked a little stressed and wife had an embarrassed smile. A porter shouted something to the oncoming attendants and they turned back to the station house. The gentleman traveler popped his head out the door and waved. He had a huge grin on his face.
I put the pieces together in my head. The father probably let them on the train to show his son that “dear old dad” was going to be safe. Nothing to worry about. The mother and son did not get off the train in time before it started. The porter had to signal the engineer to stop the train to let the “stowaways” off before they inadvertently brought them to Sacramento too.
No one was hurt. It was hilarious. I started to laugh. The tension from my worries rolled out of my belly. I couldn’t stop myself. I just kept laughing.
I saw my son wave to me from his seat by the window as the train picked up speed again. I waved back and sent him a text about what I had just witnessed. We already had a story to share. I sighed and turned back to the parking lot. It was going to be okay. I had faith.