Flying High

Last week my son Eli and I got into the car and drove down to Sea-Tac airport.

It was a beautiful day.  We saw honest-to-goodness sunshine for the first time in a long time.  I was glad I remembered to bring my camera.  Turning onto Main Street, we saw the Olympics in all their glory.

Eli and I have a very simple system for sharing the camera. If I’m driving, it’s “Eli, quick, take a picture of that.  Without the power lines, if you can!”  Sometimes he gets excited, and says, “Ooh, Mom, can I have the camera?”   South of downtown Seattle, we rounded a bend, and gasped at the magnificence of Mt. Rainier, looming over the city like a great white ghost.  “Quick, Eli, take a picture!”

He got a good one.  Only this time, I asked him to take another, with the carpool sign in it.  At the time I wasn’t sure why, but I realize now it’s because I wanted to remember being together in our little family carpool, sharing that moment in our beautiful home town.
Everything seemed so natural, and ordinary. Except this time, we parked at the airport, checked his bag, and grabbed a cuppa joe and a goodbye kiss, before he boarded an airplane to Argentina as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.

While inching his way through the maze toward the security gate, we waved and smiled at each other each time he passed by.  He reminded me of a kid waiting in line to go on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.  Only this was the real thing.  My son put on his shoes, grabbed his backpack and ukelele, and gave me one final salute before hurrying off to his gate. Then I went to the parking garage, got into my car, and blubbered.

I’m so proud of my son.  He’s courageous and adventurous.  He’s doing what all our baby birdies are supposed to do.  We hatch them, and nurture them….

They test their wings…


…and then they fly.  That’s their job.

My  job is to miss them, and worry, and love them wherever they are, and to get on with my life.  I had shows to rehearse for, a manuscript to finish, out-of-town company coming to visit.

It seemed impossible that I should be arriving back home while Eli’s plane still sat on the tarmac waiting for take-off.  I swung by the water, and saw that the sun was still shining.  Cars and people were still coming and going.

Ferry boats too.

On the way up the hill to our house I passed another familiar sight.  I’d always appreciated the simple beauty of this little wooden structure, vaguely wondering who had built it on such thickly forested unoccupied land–and why.  That day I perceived it as a work of art, an invitation, a gateway to adventure, to the unknown, to the future.  And  I stopped to take a picture for Eli.

Click here to read Elaiya Blogea, Elijah’s very funny, very interesting blog about a year in Salta.

All images and words c2013 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Transport.



  1. Naomi says:

    Best wishes for Eli and big hugs to you. I imagine it’s a heart-wrenching transition, even if things are unfolding as they should.

    1. Dear Naomi,
      I have had only a couple of weeks of empty nest, but I am keeping very busy, and that helps. I am excited about my writing, taking more storytelling jobs, putting in my garden, getting in shape, and planning the next trip. I will also take the time to read some of those books that you have been reviewing on your blog! Thank you so much for your kind words.

      1. Naomi says:

        That’s a wonderful attitude – it sounds like a time of growth for you, too. I can’t wait to read about your new adventures over the coming months!

  2. Pat says:

    Oh, Naomi. I held my breath as I read this post. When my daughter was 17, we took her to the airport to leave for a year in Europe. Imprinted on my brain is the oval window of the plane with her hand pressed against it. She came back to the US and left again, several times. The pain never lessens.

    1. Oh, Pat, what an image! But as long as she keeps coming back! I will travel anywhere to visit my kids–we are going back to Argentina to see him. And while it’s not the same as sitting down to play a game or going for walk together, the internet is an amazing tool for long distance communication.

      1. Pat says:

        I was able to travel to some amazing places because of my daughter. Raising adults can be a bitter/sweet experience.

  3. Wow Naomi, what a beautiful time the two of you had as he was preparing to soar on his own wings. It is tough to send a child off for the very first time. When my eldest daughter was first married, she and her husband accepted calling to a small mission church in Santa Fe, NM. My first grandson was only a couple months old.
    I think I cried everyday for three weeks solid (no scratch that, for the entire time they were gone). I did miss my new grandbabe, but it was my first born that I missed the most. Fortunately, God saw fit to bring them back to OK before my grand turned one! But that was the longest seven months of my life.
    How long will Eli be gone? I know you are so very proud of him, for that is also a job of a mother. Be strong and languish in the knowledge that he is doing what you prepared him to do in life. 🙂
    BTW, you guys got some incredible shots!

    1. Dear Darla,
      I am glad that you are all together again, especially with a grandbaby to watch growing up. It happens SO fast! I set myself up with things to think about and look forward to–my sister’s visit, Bea coming home for spring break, a trip with my husband, etc. I have shed some tears, when writing this post, for instance, but I think I’ve prepared myself pretty well, and wouldn’t want them to miss out on life’s adventures. I do have my fingers crossed for their eventually settling back in the Northwest, but I am prepared for anything. I will understand if they need to settle elsewhere. After all, I did. I knew I couldn’t raise kids in Detroit, and my mom lived there for another ten years after I left.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Darla, and for your kind words.

      1. you are very welcome!

  4. Wonderful post, Naomi. You made me cry but good cry. What a beautiful message. Thank you.

    1. Dear Susan,

      Thank you so much for your very kind words. Coming from you, that is such a high compliment. Best wishes, Naomi

  5. The partings seem to have come so quickly, one after the other – it seems just a few months ago you and Eli waved your daughter goodbye at university, now he’s gone too. Glad you’re so busy and have house guests to look forward to as well. Missing people’s no fun. But what an adventure he’s embarked on, Naomi, and yes, you should be proud. 🙂

    PS. Loved your sunny snowy mountains – what a day to send him off on.

    1. Thank you, Meredith. I know it will be all right. He has had a smooth landing, and thank goodness we have the internet to keep in touch. For everyone’s sake, I am making it my business to be busy and happy! I so appreciate your taking the time to visit and share you thoughts.

  6. Amy says:

    … then they fly, beautifully said Naomi. Love these shots!

    1. Hi Amy,
      Thanks so much for your visit, and for your kind words. I feel fortunate to live amidst such beauty. The rain drives people crazy here, but I don’t mind, and when the sun comes out, it is all that much more appreciated.

  7. Many a time I had virtual scissors to clip my daughter’s wings when she was ready to fly. The temptation was great, but I knew my job was done, and I had to let go.

    You have done a wonderful service to your son, Naomi.Set him free and he will come back to you…
    Love the blue-ness (is that a word?) of the mountains in most of the photo shots.

    1. Dear Tess,
      I know that’s true. You have to let them go to realize their full potential. Whatever happens, I know we will always be good friends. They love the Northwest, and we’ll see if the winds of fortune and time blow them back home again. Wherever they go, we will be sure to visit.

  8. So beautiful and sweet…..♥

  9. scillagrace says:

    What a great opportunity! Sounds like Eli is very resourceful. Do peanut butter and grapefruit go together?

    1. Hah! You must have paid a visit to his blog. I really enjoyed the Pop Quiz post. Eli is doing well, and it will definitely be a worthwhile life experience. Thanks so much for visiting, Scilla.

  10. pattisj says:

    You sprung the YEAR on us at the very end. From his blog, it sounds like he has matters under control. Your mountain shots are amazing.

    1. Hi Patti,
      Thank you for your generous comments. Yes, he will be gone for a long time, but he is doing well, and we are going to go down and visit him while he is there. He’ll be back for Christmas. His presence will be better than anything under the tree.

      1. pattisj says:

        I’m sure that is true! 🙂 How nice that you can go visit. Have you been there before, or will this be a first for you? We know a man who goes there for short-term mission work as often as he can. He loves it there.

  11. Madhu says:

    What a beautiful rendering of the inevitable day that every parent dreads! You brought back memories of the days I spent ‘blubbering’ when our daughter left home for good. But you are right, that is our job….the caring for them and seeing them off when they are ready to take on the world, and then missing them. You seem to have done your job well Naomi, and Eli seems more than ready 🙂 Good luck to him on his journey.

    1. Dear Madhu,
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I am so proud of my kids, and so glad that they are not afraid to venture out and make a place for themselves in the world. I am also fortunate to have things I can wholeheartedly throw myself into, both for business and pleasure. Travel is one of them, and I love that prospect. My long-suffering husband is going to have to pose for my photos now!

  12. Rosa says:

    they grow up so quick!

    1. I’ll say! How’d that happen anyway?

  13. ShimonZ says:

    Yes, there’s a mix of a lot of feelings, when we see our children go off to live their lives. But I have a very strong feeling that as time goes by, the love and friendship will grow, and you will find yourself strengthened by his adventures too.

    1. Oh yes. I am sure we have a few more adventures to share, and a lifetime of love ahead of us. Thank you so much for your visit, Shimon. It helps to hear it from one who has been there.

  14. TBM says:

    Best wishes for Eli and for you. Time flies

    1. Thank you so much!

  15. Sharon Creeden says:

    Dear Sweet Girl,
    Thank you for sharing those precious good-bye moments.
    Sharon Creeden

    1. Dear Sharon,
      It’s so nice to hear from you. You’ve been there, I know, and I’m guessing it doesn’t get any easier each time you say goodbye to your chicks. We’ll have to get together to console ourselves with an Elvis Waffle at the Luna Park Cafe!

  16. It seems a long time since I used to squeeze into the wendy house with my son and daughter, to play “dollies’ and bears’ tea party”. I’m enjoying having my son back at home following his three years at Uni, but there’ll be more goodbyes when he finds a job.

    I loved your pictures, especially the cute one of dolly’s feeding time 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sarah. I know I was lucky to have this time with Eli in between college and the Fulbright. I love the image of you at the ‘dollies’ and teddy bears’ tea! Best wishes for you and your son!

  17. sue says:

    So bittersweet, and I’m right on your heels. Another dear friend of mine, who recently sent her baby off to college and her oldest of to NZ, told me: “It seems so unfair that we give them everything- and then they leave us.” Despite the head knowing that what you said is true: “He’s doing what all our baby birdies are supposed to do. We hatch them, and nurture them…. They test their wings… …and then they fly. That’s their job.” the heart wishes to hold on. I am SOOOOO proud of Eli- AND you. Well done! I’m glad I have such a fabulous mentor.

    1. Dear Sue,
      You are a dear. Thank you for your very thoughtful comments. It’s good to have a friend where you know you can always find a good laugh, a shoulder to cry on, or a case of Girl Scout Cookies.

  18. My Tropical Home says:

    Awww, Naomi…Three big hugs for you…I have a flutter in my heart, not gonna cry as I’ve still got my three birdlings in my own nest…there’s still time yet to play with the trains, dollies and cars before I say any goodbyes…

    1. Dear Mary,
      I knew moms who kept waiting for the next stage of childhood, hoping it would get easier, but I loved every minute of it. I remember telling my husband, “Forget retirement. These are my golden years.” I think you and your little birdies are twice blessed too. Once because you are, and twice because you know it.

      1. My Tropical Home says:

        Awww…you’re so wonderful Naomi – that truly “warms the cockles of my heart”…love ya!! Enjoy your weekend.

  19. viveka says:

    What a lovely post .. about your son .. that from feeding a doll now .. flying away on his own adventures … fantastic, a bittersweet .. a proud post. Don’t have any children, but I can image it will be empty when they left home … I wish you a pleasant weekend … *smile

    1. What a lovely comment. I so appreciate your visit, and your generous and thoughtful response.

      1. viveka says:

        My pleasure … I promise … he will be okay *smile

  20. 4amWriter says:

    Ugh, and I thought sending them off for their first day of school was tough. 🙂 Sending you hugs all the way from sunny (but frigid) New Hampshire.

  21. I’m afraid it’s going to hit us hard when Will leaves for grad school. We’ve had him close to us longer than any of the older three, who all left town after high school, never to return except for visits. We have been lucky to have Will just across town for all these extra years.

    1. Hi Lee,
      I can imagine how nice it has been to have him so close. But your kids always seem to find their way back home, and with Rachel living so close to you, that will double your odds for seeing them at holiday time. Thanks for checking in, and sharing your news. Give everyone a hug for me.

  22. dogear6 says:

    I felt the same way when my daughter went to Australia for a semester abroad. I was happy for her to have the experience, but it was scary that we wouldn’t be there if something happened. She was with a group from school, which helped, but it was really far away. The first time she called at 5 am, I about fell out of bed trying to get the phone (she lost her wallet and didn’t know what to do). The second time, I was much calmer about getting the phone (lost her wallet again).

    She had a great time and came home fine. I was glad she did it then as she wouldn’t be able to now with how her life has evolved.


    P.S. – Funny story. She flew out during a blizzard in Minneapolis. Her original flight was canceled and I kept running to different counters, trying to get her out to meet her group. I said, can’t we fly you through Denver and then to Hawaii instead of meeting your group in California to go to Hawaii?

    Her stress was so high, she said – I can’t go to Hawaii because I didn’t go through customs. All I remember is turning around and just staring at her. Really? When did Hawaii stop being part of the U.S.? It took her a few minutes to figure out what she said. She caught the last flight out to Denver before the airport closed. Yeah, it’s really bad weather when Minneapolis closes due to snow.

    I haven’t reminded her of that story for a long time. It’s a good one to tell in front of her boyfriend. I wonder if it’ll still embarrass her. Hmm. . .

    1. Dear Nancy,
      Thank you for sharing your story. Oh, how helpless you must have felt, receiving distress calls from halfway around the world! Your second story is a perfect example of the effect that travel stress can have upon the human brain!

  23. niasunset says:

    Best wishes for Eli, I know this feeling, because of my son. He was in Milan, Italy, then another city to work in my country and now he is in Baku! Blessing and Happiness to you all, Thanks and Love, nia

    1. Dear Nia,
      I think that Eli, who loves teaching English, will probably travel and work in different places, like your son. Thank goodness we have the internet, and Skyping to help up keep in touch with them. I can’t remember who it was that said having children is like having your heart run around outside your body. I know you must feel that way too.
      Blessings and happiness to you too, Nia.

  24. Becky says:

    Ahh, this touched my heart too! I always thought it would be easier when my kids got older, but I’m not so sure about that anymore! 🙂 It is very rewarding to see them on their own, and doing good things, and making good choices, but it’s still so hard to say good-bye! Especially when they go so far away!
    Thankfully, you have a wonderful memory of the trip to the airport, and pictures to go with it!
    I wish all the best for you and for your son! You’ve obviously done a great job with your son!
    Blessings to you and Eli too!

    1. Hi Becky,
      Yes, yes, yes! We celebrate their independence, but you can’t help but worry, and miss them. I am staying very busy, which really helps, and looking forward to traveling down to see him while he is there. Thank you for your very kind words. It means a lot to me. I wish you all the best for you and your family.

  25. adinparadise says:

    Lovely post, Naomi. I know exactly how you felt. When my son left South Africa to take up his job in New York, I also blubbed, but not until he was out of sight. Our youngsters these days are so brave, and we have to be brave too, but in a different way. Each time we wave goodbye to one another, it certainly doesn’t get easier. At least with Skype and Facebook, we can feel they’re not quite so far away. Lovely photos too, especially that first one.

    1. Yes, New York is a very long way from South Africa! My Aunt Loena said my mom would tell her, “No tears! We’ll get in the car and drive around the corner, and then we’ll cry.” And that’s what they always did. Just reading your words makes me teary, but I know I’ll get over it. It’s not like in the pioneer days, when mothers and their children knew that when they parted, they would never see each other again. Thank goodness for the magic of the internet! And thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

      1. adinparadise says:

        Yes it must have been heartbreaking in the ‘olden days’ when families knew that they would never meet up again. I like to think that there’s an invisible string, or a dotted line which connects us at all times. 🙂

      2. I love that image, and I know it is true.

  26. Island Traveler says:

    “I’m so proud of my son. He’s courageous and adventurous. He’s doing what all our baby birdies are supposed to do. ” Reading your stories, not only are you their supercool mom but you are also your kid’s closest buddy in all the exciting adventures in life. I hope that one day, my son will also share my passions in life like photography as much as I share his passion for Legos.

    1. Dear friend! You are such a good dad! Your comment made me smile, but it also warmed my heart. I played so many games with my kids, and we built fairy houses in the garden and encouraged them in all their interests, sharing their passions,yes, just like you are doing with your son. As your son grows, he will be sharing your interests too. (In fact, I recall a very nice portrait that he took of you and your wife!) It is so clear that the love in your family is strong and ever present, and will last way longer than a lifetime. Best wishes to you and your wonderful family.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s