My eldest, my first creation, is flying to Hong Kong to nurture his company’s relationships with Asia. “How long will you be away?” I ask when he tells us his plans.Two Months is his answer. Just enough time for me to visit you is mine. I found out last night that Hong Kong is in China.
“In what country is Hong Kong?” I query. “The Republic of China,” my learned friend answered. “Not British anymore?” I asked in ignorance. Reminding him as he was giving this geography lesson that I might be smart but had not the privilege of a good education. “I grew up in the lowest ranked state for education in the poorest county in that state.” He was astonished at my question and politely proceeded to explain that long ago Hong Kong had been a British protectorate. One hundred and twenty years ago in fact, the British gave Hong Kong to China temporarily. China continued to want Hong Kong so the British relinquished control completely in 1997. “Thank you,” was all I said to him, wishing I had looked it up in Wikipedia so as not to look so ignorant.
My children don’t have the same problem finding Asia that I do. Resolving during my first semester of college that they would benefit from a good education, I worked hard in many ways to make that happen. One was convincing my husband that sending a fourteen year old away to learn with other boys was right and good.
Shaking my head at the wonder of now two of my children making their way in Asia, I watch them embracing a culture and countries that I’d never heard of when I was just about their age. Surely I never dreamed of seeing them. Many call it a shrinking world. I call it a rapidly expanding one when it takes a thousand dollars and more than a day of flying just to lay eyes on your child and give them a hug. I call it a clash of cultures when my husband ponders, “they are walking just as we walk except upside down and a day ahead.” “Doesn’t that make time vertical as well as horizontal?” we ask and laugh. Vertical indeed.
A few years ago, he was mine alone. His reticence created a close bond exclusively ours. Even at age twelve, when other boys were out and about on Halloween, throwing eggs and spraying shaving cream all over, he sat on the sofa, waiting for the doorbell to ring so we could hand out our candy. Sixteen years later, he emails and face times from Hong Kong so we can talk about the visit. My trip to Hong Kong. “Should we travel to India? Will we have time for the Taj Mahal? Where is the Taj Mahal?” “Nearer New Delhi than Mumbai, Mom.” ”Put Paddington on the phone,” he always says, and I do so they can bark together.
What was I thinking when we left him, so young, at boarding school to expand his interests, study languages, play violin, soccer and tennis? I can still see him looking over his shoulder, searching to see if we were still there or if we had left. Waiting, watching. All of us wondering when we would be together again. Then and now. Although it changes, it remains the same. Alea iacta est. The die has been cast.