reed magazine logonovember2005

say goodbye title

I don’t pretend to understand how to make sense of the past 17½ years with Erik. Nonetheless, I realize that these trees are good teachers.

And I do know a few things right now that I didn’t know just a minute ago. I know that getting my son to this particular point in time and space has been a major journey, one of the most important accomplishments of my life.

I know that I have drawn on all of my resources — emotional, intellectual, spiritual, financial, and social — in getting to this point. I feel both spent and complete, like after a day-long hike in the mountains.

I know that the journey has been an enlightening one both for Erik and for me. I’ve learned as much from him in the process as he’s learned from me.

I know that I have been blessed to have this experience. I feel grateful, glowing, and golden. I know that my involvement in his life is entering a new phase, bringing with it unpredictable changes in each of our lives. I feel like a wizard adding a new and potent powder into the mixture boiling in the cauldron.

I know that there is much more I wish I had taught him, shown him, modeled for him.

I know that I’ve made many mistakes along the way. I expect my stomach to start clenching with regret, but it doesn’t. I’m not worried about the future, and my regrets have no power.

Savoring these insights, I gaze around at all the trees (more than 100 different species I learn later from a website Reed devotes to its trees). One tree in particular seems to call to me more insistently than all the rest. It’s tall, majestic, wise. I think it might be some kind of redwood. I’m not very familiar with these species in the Pacific Northwest, so I don’t know (until later) that it’s actually a Giant Sequoia. I touch the bark and stand at the bottom of the trunk looking straight up.

Before the end of the day, I will have about five or ten minutes alone with my son. It’s even programmed into the schedule printed in the orientation booklet (“6 p.m. — A Big Hug Goodbye — Spend a few minutes saying goodbye to your new Reedie, and don’t worry — winter break will be here before you know it!”). Can I distill my years with Erik and my complex emotions into a simple message to leave with him? What will I share with him? Will I talk about drugs and alcohol? Sex and relationships? Personal hygiene, diet, and sleep patterns? Will I talk about my hopes for him? There are so many things I want to say and so many things I believe I’m supposed to say. next page

Natalie Ung ‘09 with parents William and Kathryn


Parents of the Class of 2009 fill Vollum lecture hall for an orientation Q&A.