Many years ago, in my teens, “New Kid in Town” was one of our favourite ballads, and the fact that it immediately followed “Hotel California” on the vinyl record meant we had about ten solid minutes of slow songs to dance without interruption, which might be good, if you had the right partner, or disastrous, if not… Still, it was a song that we warmed to, and I still have it among other precious oldies on my Spotify list.
As with other Eagles’ lyrics the story behind the song is not clear, but some of the words sound so appropriate at this time of your life.
When you were born, almost 23 years ago, you were “the new kid in town”. Another kid, your elder brother, had already come into our lives to teach us about unconditional love and joy, and worry and anguish too – all part of the package that comes with becoming a parent. But the love part is so strong, so overwhelming, and it weighs infinitely more, so we were thrilled to welcome our second son. And even if I, like many mothers, slightly worried about being capable of loving another human being as much as I loved my firstborn, I shouldn’t have. As soon as they put you on my breast I was invaded by that most intense of feelings most mothers describe – the love for our new-born baby, as strong and powerful as the love for your other children because a mother’s heart expands each time she gives birth. At least, that’s what happened to me, and I welcomed you with all my heart, my “new kid in town”.
You were the sweetest and most loving child, always grabbing my hand, giving me a hug or a kiss. You snuggled into my bed at night and, like your brother, loved to sit by my side and listen to the fairy tales I read to you every evening before you went to bed. As you grew into your teens, I often had to scold you because you would not study. Still, no one could be angry with you for long, because your charming smile and your bright, tender look always disarmed us, and we always believed you when you said you’d do better next time.
Sometimes you were naughty too, but always in an endearing way, so that everyone around loved you, as in the song. They still do, family, friends, and even at work, you have told me many stories that show me you have grown, but not changed one bit.
I was always proud of you, and I know you always looked up to me too. You saw how hard I tried to overcome life’s challenges, and I’ll never forget the day you looked at me in admiration, after you changed classes – a gargantuan task I had embarked on the year you were placed on a class of hooligans you needed to get out of, or you would surely fail – and told me ”Mom, you are so determined, you always achieve what you want!” Even knowing it’s not always the case, I felt so proud, and I know you still think the world of me; I just hope I can continue to live up to this huge responsibility!
You are a companion, too. Last year, after the summer, when your brother moved to our apartment by the beach, because of his work, you came back to Lisbon with me; you helped me in our move, and together we enjoyed the discovery of a new house, a new neighbourhood. We spent the second lockdown together, and then enjoyed the gradual opening; how many times did we go to that delicious hamburger restaurant up the street, or for an ice cream after dinner on a summer evening? Or just sat down in our balcony feeling the night breeze and discussing so many things, while you talked about your plans, and your dreams.
And these plans, and dreams, are now taking you away from me. I know, anyone who works in your area – Hotel Management – should go and have an international experience. I know, even before you graduated, we had arranged for an internship of six months abroad and were it not for the pandemic you would have left more than a year ago. But you didn’t at the time, and you got a job, and I really loved to wait for you every evening while I was preparing dinner and listen to the key on the lock and to your happy voice as you came in, “Hi Mom!” And then I would go and greet you and get that bear hug from the big man who used to be my baby.
I have known it for a while, of course, since you got your job confirmation from the hotel in Amsterdam. But I think it only dawned on me yesterday, when you told me “Mom, I’ve just bought the plane ticket – I’ll be leaving on the 24th!” And I worry, worry that you don’t have a place to live in yet, that it will be cold and rainy, that I won’t be there for you if you need me… I know you need to do this, you’re a grown man and it will be good for you, I know all of that if I’m sensible, but then a mother’s heart is anything but sensible and I know this is the end of an era and nothing will ever be the same, even when you come back.
So, my darling, you are just another bird who’s emptying the nest. My little bird. I’m sad, but I’m proud too, of your courage, your drive, your choice to leave your comfort zone and venture into the unknown, all for the sake of a dream; the dream of growing up, as a person and as a professional, the dream of making your way by yourself in the world, the dream of daring to live a different way of life and discovering new horizons.
As in the song by the Eagles, you have a restless heart; everybody loves you, but you’re looking the other way, and soon you’ll be walking, no, flying away to fulfil your destiny. You’ll be the new kid in town again, this time in another city. And, when you give me that last hug before you leave, there will be tears on your shoulder; tears of sadness and longing, but also tears of pride, and above all tears of gratitude, because I was blessed with a son like you, and I can only wish you all the luck in the world.
Photo by Yousef Alfuhigi on Unsplash