Letter to my Ice, Ice, Baby

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Dear Jack,

You picked a good time to do a study abroad trip to Iceland. It’s so weird to know that one of my kids is on a remote island floating somewhere between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

I’m glad I paid extra for the international phone plan so you can check in occasionally. Your latest text said the weather there in Iceland is “a bit chilly,” which honestly sounds amazing. I’m trying to remember what it even feels like to be a bit chilly. Here in the homeland, it’s roughly one million degrees Fahrenheit (which is actually one million twenty degrees when you factor in the humidity).

Mother Nature is boiling mad at us. It’s like she stuck us in an air fryer, forgot about it, and then went on an extra long errand to Target. I’m considering putting a carpet runner down on the backyard deck just so the dogs can get to the grass without poaching their paws on those blistering boards.

I know it’s hard for you to understand this, but it feels strange when you or your brother or sister are out of the house for any extended period of time. It’s like a part of my body has relocated. Like a significant chunk of my soul is out there somewhere, and I’m waiting for it to come home and lock back into place.

jack waterfall 2022But the photos and videos you’ve been sending have helped. That’s a great photo of you standing next to one of Iceland’s gorgeous waterfalls (at what I hope was a safe distance). I also liked that funny video of you trying exotic new foods, like the sample of fermented Greenland shark called Hakarl. Judging by the look on your face, I assume it does not taste like chicken.

Speaking of food, you’ll be impressed to hear that here in America, home of the Big Mac and other bad choices, I’m still doing a decent job of eating healthier foods – a promise I made myself during a post-Christmas shame spiral. As you know, I gave up my late-night cereal habit, and I haven’t had French fries in about seven months. (Sure, I might have a stray fry that tumbles out of its carton and falls to the bottom of the to-go bag. But I think we can both agree that an occasional orphaned bag fry doesn’t really count.)

I hope you’re taking care of yourself and getting enough sleep so you can learn and hike and sample all the chewy shark snacks you want. Speaking of sleep, your younger sister isn’t doing so well with that. As is often the case during summer break, she has gone almost full nocturnal. She hasn’t greeted a day before the crack of noon in several weeks.

I know you’re having a great time seeing the world and making college friends. But I hope part of you is also looking forward to coming home in a week or so. I can’t wait to pick you up at the airport and hear all the details of your Icelandic adventure.

Once you’re back, we’ll only have about three weeks before it’ll be time to load up a U-Haul trailer and move you into a tiny freshman dorm room at Michigan State. I suppose I should take comfort in the fact that I’ll only have to cross three states instead of an ocean to see you.

But it’ll be tough. I imagine you’ll handle the transition better than I will because you’ll have this whole new phase of life to explore. With both you and your older brother away at college in different parts of the country, it’ll be sad not to have my boys in the house. I’ll miss hearing your footsteps upstairs, clomping around like horses who leave their socks on the floor.

But I’m learning how to make peace with bittersweetness. As much as I’ll miss you, I’m equally happy to see you and your brother’s lives taking flight. It’s thrilling and terrifying all at the same time.

Just remember where home is and that we’ll be here anytime you need a visit back at the nest.



Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at gwenrockwood5@gmail.com. Her book is available on Amazon.

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