You Can Take it With You

A million things have been going through my head, over and over, for the past several months since we found out that our oldest son, Quinn’s from his first marriage, would be moving 300 miles away. As the time drew nearer, our focus began to shift from heartbreak (How will we live without him?) to hope (How can we make this smooth for him?), and it became increasingly important to us to be sure he wrapped things up here, where he has lived his entire life, before he started a new one.

“Let’s throw him a party,” Quinn suggested. “We’ll get all his friends here so they can say goodbye. Let’s make it a surprise.” Good idea, I thought. And it was. Braiden was totally surprised and seemed delighted that people he hadn’t known too long and people he’d known his whole life, friends from school, teammates from football, and people from church had crowded into our backyard to cheer him as he stepped through the sliding-glass doorway. It was a good night.

But the most memorable part may prove to be what all those people did for him beforehand. Two weeks before the party, I swiped some numbers off his phone and got busy texting his friends to invite them. I also asked each guest to send me a picture of themselves with a well wish for Braiden.

All those pictures and messages (along with some of my own pictures and some I stole off Braiden’s Facebook account) went into a photo book. As his guests arrived, I had the kids find their picture and sign the book. There was also white space for the kids who may not have had a picture in there.

We presented the book to the guest of honor mid-party. It became the center of attention. Braiden sat down on the edge of the fire pit with a little crowd around him and went through the book page by page.

“Haha! Remember that?” “Oh, there’s so-and-so!” He loved it.

Even though he’s kind of a man at age 14, he fell asleep that night with his book near his head. The next morning, I saw him sitting on the couch, thumbing through it again. And it was on the very top of the overflowing Rubbermaid bin he hauled out to his mom’s car the morning he left. Just underneath it was the photo book his dad had made for him when he was six, listing all the reasons Quinn loves him, what he hopes for him, and why he’ll always be his best pal.

Braiden is a gregarious kid. He’s going to thrive in his new environment. But it’s good to know that he had a good sendoff and that he has a way to ease any twinges of homesickness that may lie ahead.

- Sara