It is never easy to say goodbye to our loved ones when we go away from home. I've been leaving home for years - I do it several times a year, some years - and it doesn't get easier with practice, though I keep hoping it will. But it is not just about saying goodbye when leaving home - it can be just as hard, I have recently learned, when people say goodbye to you.
Yesterday we drove Eli, 11 years old, to Laguardia airport, where he would be catching a flight to summer camp in Maine. It is his first year going to camp, his first time leaving home. When we made these plans, I was relieved. Every year when I go off to Bolivia, I have to say goodbye to Eli, which is incredibly sad. This year, I thought, it would be so much easier, since he would be going away and I would be staying home - at least for a few days.
Not so. Saying goodbye is just as hard, whether you are the one leaving or the one staying behind. The one leaving has to face all the uncertainties of life in an unfamiliar place. But the one staying has to confront the defamiliarization of the familiar, the sense that this house seems the same, but is profoundly different, because some of the liveliness and joy has left it. For me, this is a much harder thing to face.