My 18-year old son left for college this fall. He’s attending the University of Iowa, the only college he wanted to go to, the only college he applied to, and luckily, the college he was accepted to. Unlike many high school seniors, the choice was an easy one for Sam — his dad, grandfather, and two uncles were Hawkeyes. Sam’s easy-going, middle child thought process was this: why mess with tradition? It worked for them, it’ll work for me.
Among my many worries about Sam’s departure are the facts that he’s never done a load of laundry, has a knack for losing things, and has no idea what he wants to do in life. But among my comforts — he has an inner yearning to learn about subjects that interest him. And there have been many over the years: coins, constellations, basketball, the Beatles — to name a few.
Before he left, he asked me to help him go through the stuff in his room. His bookshelf was crammed with many favorites he had hung onto since his days in elementary and middle school. Seeing the books, I wasn’t just reminded of what he had loved to read for the past eighteen years, but the way the stories had shaped the young man standing before me.
I wish that he will stay close with his sisters and hold on to his curiosity and thirst for knowledge, like Jack and Annie in the Magic Tree House series, those beloved books that Sam devoured throughout second grade. Sam and his sisters used to act out the stories, going on adventures that took them from their bedrooms all the way downstairs to the family room, through the kitchen and back upstairs. (They did not have Smartphones, tablets, or any type of texting device at this time.) Stuck among the piles of books was the pad of paper where they started writing their own version — Monkeys on Monday. They were determined to finish it and send it off to Mary Pope Osborne. (They didn’t, although I’m sure Ms. Osborne would have loved it.)
I wish that Sam will cling to his imagination for a while longer, before the weight and seriousness of adulthood forces it away. Like Joe Stoshack in Dan Gutman’s baseball adventure books, there was a point when Sam believed a boy could time travel just by holding a baseball card in his hand.
I wish that he will be brave and determined, like Harry Potter, as he faces the many obstacles that will be sure to block his path. He won’t have a wand, just his intelligence and heart. I wish that he always finds humor in life’s trying situations, like Louis Sachar’s Marvin Redpost, and holds tight to his passions, always continuing to seek out what makes him happy, like the main character in one of our favorite picture books of all time, Shy Charles, by Rosemary Wells.
And I wish that he will fight for what he believes in, and fight for those who cannot, like Annemarie in Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and many other heroes in these books he read, who triumphed over enemies real and imagined.
There were many more wishes on my mind, but the bookshelf was empty.
Now there was room for college textbooks, the framed graduation photo, the Bob Dylan guitar chord book. I asked Sam if he was sad to pass these childhood books along to our local library. He said no, not at all, because the stories were “in my brain.”
In his brain. Wow.
Maybe, just maybe, those wishes have a chance of coming true.
Michele Weber Hurwitz still has her worn copy of Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott, which she read over and over as a child. She is the author of Calli Be Gold (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House 2011). Visit her at www.micheleweberhurwitz.com.