Go West, part 2: Dixon

I stared at the family calendar, hung on a finishing nail in the kitchen.

?We should leave the 22nd, drop younger child, who we will call ?Seth,? at Governor?s school . . . and just keep going,? I decided.

?Whatever,? said Chance.

Seth was psyched. Among about two saxophone players selected state, no, commonwealth-wide, the 16-year-old was going to spend a month at a bonafide University, getting instruction from a real University professor.

He calculated and recalculated: How many reeds should he take? He would be playing sax as well as clarinet.

I had no idea.

I sent out emails warning friends from Arkansas to California that we were coming. We are equipped to camp, I told them all, and we?d love to see you. If you have room in your backyard for our tent, that would be great too.

Driving south from the suburbs of D.C. to Radford University was cramped. Seth, Chance, two instruments, Seth?s ?stuff for a month? as well as Chance?s ?gear for a year? at film school packed our 11-year-old Subaru to the gills. Chance strapped his microphone stands to the roof.

seth gov schoolWe arrived at Radford registration, jumped through more hoops, then learned official programs didn?t begin for two hours.

Seth had deposited his gear in his room; meanwhile Chance had repacked the Suby. The back seat was filled with camera gear and lights.

Seth folded himself into a space no 6? 2? teenager should, according to the laws of astronomical phsyics, fit. But Seth did. For almost thirty minutes while I drove up and down roads looking for the restaurant with “Canoe” or “River” or “Whitewater”? in its name, sure this was where that great restaurant was.

Finally, I rewarded the patient children with burgers and fries on a balcony overlooking the river.

Then we revisited Seth?s dorm room, where his roommate, a stout trumpet player from a rural area south of Richmond, stood shifting from one foot to another while his mother made his bed and stocked his drawers from his suitcase. She apologized that she was late, explaining that her church had an important mission meeting. She threatened to tell me The Whole Story as she bustled about.

I looked at Seth?s two bags in the corner, occupying less physical space than his instruments.

?Give me a hug,? I said, ?we have got to go.?

I am a terrible mom, I said to my older son as we left.

?Really? Do you think Seth wants you to make his bed??

Eighteen is definitely completely grown up.

By Maile

Maile Field is a writer living in Northern California. Born in Hawaii and raised in Montana, she earned her master of fine arts in nonfiction at George Mason University in Virginia. She encourages constructive criticism.