Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Back to Boston January 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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FRIDAY, 10:30 p.m.

I switch off the lamp. Two clicks. Pull the plug on the Christmas tree lights. Fold the fleece throw.

Then I step toward the couch, wait there until he looks up. He removes headphones, clamps his laptop closed. His arms reach up. Mine extend down. We pull each other close. Linger.

Tears edge my eyes. I cannot bear this moment, this final goodnight hug. He leaves tomorrow. After 23 days at home in Minnesota for holiday break.

I did a photo shoot of the son when he was back home in Minnesota. This was shot at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.

I did a photo shoot of my 20-year-old son when he was back home. This was shot at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.

I want to snapshot this moment, hold it forever in the memory of my soul. The scent of him. The brush of his curls against my face. The love between a mother and son.

Already I miss him.


SATURDAY, 3:05 p.m.

The son in the front passenger seat, his suitcase and other baggage rests next to me.

The son in the front passenger seat, his suitcase and other baggage next to me as we head to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

I am seated behind my husband, our son to his, to my, right in the front passenger seat. Beside me rests his backpack. His suitcase leans against the door, butting a cardboard box crammed with board games and other stuff he’s taking back to Boston.

A side mirror on our van reflects traffic along Interstate 35.

A side mirror on our van reflects traffic along Interstate 35.

The Interstate miles roll by. We are mostly silent. Until my thoughts tumble into words. “It’s OK to call me sometimes.”

He turns toward me. “I know.”

In the rearview mirror, I glimpse my husband’s smile. He and the son exchange a look.

Crossing the Minnesota River Valley on Cedar Avenue.

Crossing the Minnesota River Valley on Cedar Avenue.

Soon we are bridging the Minnesota River, skirting the Mall of America, nearing the airport. Airliners roar a reminder of departure.

Fort Snelling Cemetery lies to the right as we near Terminal Two.

Fort Snelling Cemetery lies to the right as we near Terminal Two.

Signage points us toward Terminal Two. We pass by Fort Snelling National Cemetery, seemingly infinite rows of white tombstones unfolding before me. Sorrow. Tears. Sadness. Mothers missing sons.

The road curves. We are there, pulled to the curb. Door slid open. Suitcase out. Box out. We’re all out and then the son reaches inside for his backpack, hoists it onto his narrow shoulders.

Then he is between us, stretching his arms around us. Three into one.

Tears slide down my cheeks as he turns away, pulling his box-topped suitcase into the terminal.

Already I miss him.

A plane flies out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A plane flies out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport late Saturday afternoon.


SATURDAY, 8:40 p.m.

Credits roll across the television screen. I turn my face into the corner of the sofa. Crying at the movie. Crying because I want my son home. Crying because I wonder where time goes and why our children must leave.

I turn toward the Christmas tree, lights blurring through the tears. Scent of honeysuckle from a burning candle perfumes the room. The furnace kicks in. I dry my eyes on the cuffs of my sweatshirt.

I pick up my cell phone, reread his messages.

5:35 p.m.: I’m on the plane.

6:52 p.m.: I arrived in Chicago.

He’s not even to Boston yet.

Already I miss him.


SATURDAY, 10:21 p.m.

My cell phone buzzes.

I click on the text message: Just landed in Boston.


© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


31 Responses to “Back to Boston”

  1. KerryCan Says:

    Awwww . . . you did a great job of conveying your emotions here. It seems to me you need to book a visit to Boston!

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    🙂 23 days; that is a nice long visit. Very tough letting go.

  3. A rite of passage in a mother’s life, Audrey, and a tough one at that. What a good-looking young man.

    • You would think I would be used to this by now since he is my third child. But he’s also my youngest and the one who has moved the most distant. And, yes, a rite of passage in a mother’s life, although many mothers have their children nearby. And then again many do not. I am thankful for the 23 days he was back in Minnesota.

  4. Beth Ann Says:

    I have thought about you all weekend. I know how difficult it is and your post conveyed it perfectly. I imagine you were weeping as you wrote it, correct? I think that any mama can identify with those feelings of sadness and separation. It’s only natural to have those emotions if you have a close relationship with your child. I have been blessed to be able to go visit mine when I get too lonesome for them. Hang in there.

    • Thank you for thinking of me, my dear friend.

      Yes, I wrote this through tears. But it’s not just my story. I wrote it for every mom out there, as you say. For at one time or another we must let go–whether a block away, an ocean away or a half a country away. And for most of us mamas, that is not easy.

  5. treadlemusic Says:

    Tough to write this through a curtain of tears…..for you and for all who are enduring such separations. He left home, many months ago, a young Midwest college student and returned these recent days a young, much more ‘polished’ “ivy-league” East-Coast (dare I say) resident. Sometimes change is slow but other times these changes are heaped on us as an avalanche. The results of which are still being written for him and……for you. Blessings and hugs from one mom to another…………………………….

  6. Erin Honken Says:

    I’m in the throws of “empty nest syndrome” as well. Oh did I cry last night as she pulled out of the drive way! (And she’s just 45 min away at MSU!) It’s the mixed emotions that get me, truly bittersweet. I’m so proud and happy for her. I remind myself over and over “Roots and Wings, Roots and Wings — this is what you dreamed of for her…”

    • You are a wise mom to follow that mantra, Roots and Wings, Roots and Wings.

      The tough thing for me is knowing that I will not see my boy for probably another six months or more. That was the length between his last visits. Yet, I know he’s happy where he’s at and that helps me. A lot.

      Hugs to you this morning, Erin.

  7. candyt9 Says:

    Love your writing on this topic. My son heads back to college next weekend. I get to take him and drop him off, prolonging my time with him. And I try not to cry. I hope this second semester will be easier on me than the first. He is our only child. I know some parents who are not bothered by the departure of their child to college and just go on without a hitch. But that is not my reaction.

    • Ah, Candy, I empathize so with you. I know you will savor this last week with your boy before he returns to college. That doesn’t lessen the difficulty of his departure, though.

      It gets easier. It does. That seems difficult to believe given this post. I always find this first week after he leaves to be the toughest. The past two nights, the house has felt empty without him. Too quiet. Too dark.

      But time always helps and I hope it’s the same for you.

      Like you, I mostly hold the tears in until he is gone. It’s better that way. Maybe.

  8. Virginia Updegrove Says:

    It seems so long ago that I went through what you are going through, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. The hard part is when they start their own lives and are so far away. I have two sons in Reno and a daughter in Idaho. That’s quite a ways from Tucson, so don’t see them that often. They have their own families now so not much time for travel. My how our lives do change. Cherish each moment with them as if it is the last. One never knows. I think back to how my folks must have felt as I left home never to live in the area again. Funny, the older you get the more your childhood places mean to you.

    • Virginia, you are so right on all points in your comment. At least one of my three is only an hour away. But even so I don’t see her often. She is a newlywed and busy with her life.

      Right now my kids do have that attitude of they are glad to have left their hometown. With time, I hope they will come to appreciate this place where they were raised. Most of us do as we age.

  9. Your post made me tear up – Awww – hard to let go when they are still so young – love the self portrait that you did of him – one handsome dude 🙂 I remember the emotions between me and my dad when I married and then moved Out West in less than a year. Thank goodness for technology to keep in touch! Happy Day

    • Yes, technology helps. But the son is not all that good in responding, even though he is a computer science major. I try not to communicate too much because I don’t want to be a helicopter parent. Plus, I know he’s busy with classes and work and simply enjoying his time at college.

  10. chlost Says:

    There is definitely something between us moms and sons. My oldest went off to California for college. I thought I was doing okay, but my daughter informed me that I was very depressed that first year. It was hard to have him so far away. Especially the first one. Now all three are married and on their own, and my youngest turns 30 this week. That is a sobering milestone! I keep reminding myself that this is what the parenting job description was all about….raising them and setting them off into the world. You have done an excellent job.

  11. Thread crazy Says:

    Aww my heart aches for you Audrey; as parents we want them to succeed and be independent, but then as parents it’s so hard to watch them leave. We can think back now how our parents must have felt when we left home, but back then we were too excited about new experiences and our futures to realize it. Just know that in those quiet times, I’m sure your son is wondering what Mom and Dad are doing, and even though he’s glad to be at college doing his own thing, I’m sure there’s a part of him longing to be at home enjoying your cooking! Hang in there Audrey.

    • I asked my mom this once, how it felt when I, the second oldest of six, left home. She responded that it wasn’t tough for her because she was still so busy raising her other four children.

      But, yes, you’re right about raising them to be independent and then wishing they were still at home.

      I’ll be fine. It takes awhile to readjust to his absence.

  12. Littlesundog Says:

    Reading your words made me tear up… it was so emotion-provoking. I don’t have children. The closest I can come to a child was raising orphaned fawn, Daisy deer. The day we freed her, allowing her to be wild, my heart ached. How could a little fawn survive in the wild being raised by human parents? But she did return, and she’s survived nearly four years now, and raised babies of her own. My heart still aches each time she sets off to the woodlands and beyond. I think it must always be like that for any mother with her child(ren). This was a lovely post… thank you for sharing.

  13. Jackie Says:

    Sorry your mama heart is so sad, it must be so hard to let him go after 23 days. You have such a well adjusted wonderful boy.. I know you know that! It’s hard to see them grow up so fast and become so independent, even though that’s what we raised them up to be. I hope your heart settles soon, Praying for peace…and more phone calls from your boy 🙂

  14. Nice. Boston seems like it would be a cool place to live :).

  15. Sue Ready Says:

    Wow Audrey I read all the comments and your blog certainly touched a lot of reader’s hearts. So many parents experience same emotions as you. I’d like to comment on photo. You did a nice job capturing the moment and should frame this one for your desk to remind you of those wonderful 20 some days at home. He looks a lot like his sister.

    • Thank you, Sue. It’s that time of year when so many parents are sending their sons and daughters back to college. Emotions run high. Love overflows.

      You are spot on correct with that photo. I fully intend to get it enlarged and frame it.

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