We just got back from the airport after saying farewell to our youngest child. Geez, he’s only been gone a few minutes and I miss him terribly. Our Ricky is headed to a far away land called Spain, where he will be studying abroad this semester. I remember noticing as the two of us headed for the back door to leave for the airport, the extreme jumbo-ness of his suitcase. You would have thought he was a girl, or perhaps that he was staying for a year, instead of four months. Of course, I can attest that much of the interior suitcase space was taken up by several pair of size-13 shoes. They just don’t make suitcases large enough for dudes with puppies that big. "Do you think they will charge extra because my suitcase is so heavy?” asked Ricky as we drove to the airport. He was used to flying to college with a huge trunk. Sadly, we were used to being slammed with an extra hefty baggage weight charge. I crossed my fingers and toes as we waited patiently in line to check in at the airline ticket counter. "Now Ricky, don’t say anything while I am chatting with the ticket agent. I’m going to make a plea to see you off at the gate. If you notice a tear, don’t look surprised,” I whispered. The ticket agent had just entered Ricky’s frequent flyer miles when I caught her off guard and presented my best case. "Do you think I could see my youngest child off at the gate? I won’t lay eyes on him for four long months,” I whimpered, as a single authentic tear meandered down my left cheek right on cue. "I don’t know. That's usually reserved for small children,” the ticket agent said, as she handed me a tissue. "But he is a small child,” I countered, my bottom lip lowered as I look pitifully up at the 6-foot-4-inch young man standing at my side. Well, he IS small compared to the Rockets' Yao Ming, I remember thinking, but knew better than to say it out loud. Frowning, the lovely ticket agent asked for my driver’s license, and handed me my security pass. The agent instantly turned from “lovely” to “enchanting.” After clearing security, we stopped off at the airport convenience store for in-flight munchies. Ricky picked out an oat bar, Slim Jim beef jerky and a package of Orbit gum. I would've sprung for three times that much, but couldn’t talk him into it. He would find out for himself how long an over-the-ocean flight was by the rumbling of his tummy. We sat quietly together at the gate for several minutes. Then I asked Ricky what he would miss the most about being so far away from the United States besides family, friends and his dad’s weekend barbecues. I was sure he would utter his favorite fast food, the disgustingly greasy “Baconator,” but it was missing-in-action from the list. "The Super Bowl, Master’s golf, NFL Draft, NBA Finals, March Madness, opening day of baseball, and Roger Clemens’ steroid hearing, which I heard was delayed until next month,” said Ricky, so fast I could tell he had already put gobs of thought into the subject. Wanting to get the biggest bang for my security clearance pass, I pressed on with the little time we had left before he boarded the plane. "Oh, and by the way, just what ARE you studying while you are in Spain?" I asked. For months, we had focused on what he was bringing, where he would be living, the pitiful exchange rate of the Euro … stuff like that. It was no wonder I forgot to ask about his classes. "History of Mediterranean Life, Spanish Grammar, Spanish Art & Literature and I forgot the other course,” Ricky answered. "I bet you didn’t read anything on the recommended reading list, did you? Do you even know who Don Quixote is?” I asked. "Isn’t he the guy on the horse?” Ricky coyly answered. "Yep, and there's also a windmill involved,” I countered, reaching very far back into the recesses of my college memory file cabinet labeled “World Masterpieces literature class.” Heck, what was I thinking … the reading list was two pages long. Ricky is probably about as well prepared as any of the other 60 students in the program. I have to say, the 30-minute informative chit-chat and extra long hug on tip-toes at the gate was worth the effort. That nice ticket agent may never know how she made saying farewell a little easier for one mom and her very “small” child. Dixie Frantz is a Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist for the past 12 years. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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