It was an overcast August evening some 2 decades ago.
I remember every detail because few moments in my life have carried such weight..such enormity.
We were driving to Kennedy Airport from the Catskills where we had just spent a Shabbos, just the three of us. My Parents and I. It was our first and only Shabbos..just the 3 of us...and I felt as if I truly got to know them. Just in time to leave them.
I was heading off to yeshiva..a boy of 14..going on 15.
I had this huge lump in a throat..like a corkscrew holding back a flood of emotions.
The silence was not helping..punctured only by such distractionary statements as, “You remembered to write down all the phone numbers right?”..and “I hope the rain holds up”.
Watching the New York skyline rush by, a flood of memories threatened to drown me right then and there. 14 years of memories condensed into 2 hours. It was as if I had 1 hour to live. One hour of life as I knew it. From birth until now all I had known was the warm cocoon of my home, my parents, siblings, bed, food and stability. Here I was headed into an unknown..
We pulled up to the curbside and checked in my bags. My Father hugged me, looked me in the eye and shared with me some words of wisdom that life had taught him...”The most important thing is who you surround yourself with, no one will influence you like friends” and a few other important life lessons.
I told him “I love you”, I think.
Then my Mom hugged me and started to tear up, before my father broke it up and told us it’s getting late. It was dark by now. I turned to go and was too lost to introduce myself to the 5 or 6 other boys on my flight. I kept to myself...got a window seat and turned toward the window as the City lights disappeared beneath us. The low hum of the engines..the stale air of the plane a sudden and cold departure from the world I knew. For the first time in my life I was truly alone. The lump in my throat got dislodged and tears started flowing down my cheeks in the darkness.
By the time the week was over I had lots of new friends, was used to my lumpy mattress, and my new life.
I was now a man of 15 and not looking back.