I watched him sitting on the floor of the bookstore, leafing through books. Then, he lifted this one.
“A picture book?!” I raised my eyebrow. He’s definitely too old for that.
He found the page and pointed to the line: “Courage is sometimes having to say good-bye.”* He closed the book and handed it back to me, “I want it. This is what I want to say.”
This is the parting present my son chose to give to his best friend of four months, who is moving back to the States abruptly. Like us, they are an expat’s family. They are also from New York State. The two boys happened to be in the same class; they have the same last name; they wore the exact same t-shirt on the first day of school; they both like math, and struggle with Chinese. For four months, they held onto each other, being the newbies in school, taking on a new life as young global nomads.
But the company decided to “pull” – That’s the term we use among us, talking about being called back from an overseas assignment before our term ends. Quite some families got pulled during the recent recession, they say, just like how the assignment comes, a pull doesn’t wait until a school year is over, either.
I never thought of this underlying instability before, which is lurking there everyday. The magnitude of the impact on the children became fully clear to me only when I looked at the pictures in the book he chose. A pull is not a move but a uproot. It takes brave souls to brace the impact. These two boys have three weeks to do it. They will make it.
* From Courage by Bernard Waber, 2002.