A popular question asked of me lately is, "So, has your son sent in his his mission paperwork yet?" In our religion and culture (those being the same where we live...) it's the next step for young men after graduating from high school that they begin a two-year missionary experience. I went when I was nineteen. Now, it's his turn.
The question is a good one because anyone who knows my son knows he's going to be a missionary. The age to begin missionary service was changed a year ago so since his birthday in the spring, everyone asks if he's turned in his papers--something he must do before he receives his official call.
Today the final requirement to the process is done. I took his picture.
It was a first for both of us--the first time he posed as a missionary and the first time I took portrait shots. Of the two, I'm sure I knew less of what I was doing. I snapped picture after picture, setting the focus and aiming the flash both at him, then away from him. After taking about 40 pictures I figured one of them would be good enough--I usually get at least one good shot and we only needed one.
Sometimes life has a way of distorting the time-space continuum. A two-hour meeting at work can feel like an eternity and yet, the almost 30 years since I donned a suit and a black name tag (with the Danish translation of the name of my religion etched into the plastic hanging on the breast pocket...) has passed in what feels like the blink of an eye. I know some of the things he's going to face, some of the emotions he will feel--both good and bad--because I've been there.
Today's an ending, of sorts. My son will no longer be uncommitted, singular...basically, a child. But it's also a beginning, a beginning to a chapter in his life that will test him in ways he cannot possibly understand.
So, after today I have a different answer to the question everyone seems to ask. And that answer is,