Gabe is off on his first solo trip -- a weekend jaunt to New York to visit his cousin Maya.
He's a product of his era, and his North Shore shtetl, in some ways: he's been to London, Paris, and Israel, but never New York City. He's flown dozens of times but was a little apprehensive about suddenly having to be alert and in charge of himself. Until now, airports have been one of those transitional zones, like the car (until he started driving this Fall), where he simply got used to looking at the back of his parents' heads, occasionally being handed something to eat or drink, and following along. At 15, he's ready for a change.
I remember my first, almost disastrous solo trip. At 16(?), I flew from Chicago Midway to Green Bay -- with a stopover in Milwaukee -- to visit a friend at his family's summer cabin just outside Stevens Point, Wisconsin. We were allowed to get off the plane in Milwaukee, and I got absorbed in a video game. When I looked up, the plane was gone.
I rushed over to the gate attendant. This was a simpler time, and I was a "kid" traveling alone, so they called the plane back to the gate. I was ushered out onto the tarmac, and had to board the plane through the entrance at the back, under the tail. They folded the stairs down, and as I climbed into the plane, I was greeted by the sight of every single passenger turning around in their seat and glaring at me. I know, it sounds like a bad dream, but I'm pretty sure it was real.
The rest of the trip was a lot of fun.
Every milestone with Gabe now feels like a separation, a sprouting of wings. He is quiet, disciplined, self assured but not cocky. He sees much more than he says. Sometimes I have to remind myself he's still a kid. The girls grew and left suddenly, it now seems. I'm sure someday soon it will feel the same way with Gabe. But that only occurred to me this morning, when I left him at airport security, fumbling in his pockets for his boarding pass.