Tom left to go on vacation after Christmas in 2007, and ended up spending the whole year of 2008 in Paris. Then all of 2009. Etcetera. He was gone.
When he left on that after-Christmas vacation, I had no idea that he was not coming back. After dropping him off at the airport, I found that his room had been left in a state worse than its customary disarray, and vowed to chastise him when he returned. He took enough clothes for a vacation, and of course his guitar. He’d had a nice new acoustic guitar of his choice for his 18th birthday in late 2007, and that left with him. I closed the door to his destroyed room and vowed not to clean it up myself.
I think that his siblings knew. I think that he had told them that he was waiting until he had the legal right to live where he wanted, when he turned 18, and then would move back in with his mom in Paris. In fact, he waited a few more months, until after Christmas, because Christmas at our house was always more fun than at his mom’s!
But then he left, just like that. He called me in January to say that he wouldn’t be coming back. I felt awful. I had no idea how badly he must have felt to flee like that. I even felt bad that he felt unable to confide his plans to me.
Periodically during 2008, I would go into his room and work through the process of cleaning it up and organizing his things. If he wasn’t coming back, someone had to do it. I’ve always found cleaning up after a child comforting when he or she is away. Silly, I know, but it’s a kind of loving.
His departure made it more difficult to record his life for this photo album on the web. I wasn’t prepared to let him go completely, but the only photographs that I had access to were on his and his friends’ MySpace and Facebook sites. So I downloaded what I found there and filled in the extensive gaps as best I could with phone calls and emails.
I’m not the first parent to miss a departed adolescent.
One thing that I know for sure is that he’s doing a lot with his guitar. He busked on the Metro and played in bars, and then starting in the fall of 2008 began attending a music school. He learned to play the piano, and a lot about singing!
For a while, he sang with a band called “mot direction home,” a French play on the words of a Bob Dylan phrase in “Like a Rolling Stone:” “How does it feel to be on your own with no direction home, like a rolling stone.” “Mot” is “word” in French.
How does it feel to have two directions home, Tom? The eternal question of the children of divorce.
He occasionally addresses such questions in his songwriting, and his lyrics can be profound and moving. A times he emails them here for comments. And in 2008 he even recorded the guitar and voice for one song, in a studio! Charlie said that it was his favorite song.
We have less to say about the rest of these photos, knowing neither the people or much about the circumstances.
However, we can confess that, not surprisingly, many of the photos on Tom’s Facebook page are of him (or other young people) letting loose!
He smoked, cigarettes. That’s what you do in Paris. He announced a New Year’s resolution in 2009 to quit smoking, but unfortunately that didn’t work. As the parents themselves each had a very hard time quitting smoking, we will not be pushing the issue.
But Tom, if you want to protect and improve your singing voice, the last thing you want to do is suck hot smoke down your throat! The only reason that your lungs don’t scream with the heat of the smoke is that there are no nerves in there to sense that high temperature. Scary fact!
In contrast to his Santa Cruz photos, where Tom smiles a lot, in his Paris photos he often looks like a Parisian. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
We also know that he has been working part-time almost the whole time that he has been in Paris, looking after younger children in a “centre aeré.” He had to follow prolonged training courses to qualify for that too. So he was training to look after young children, looking after them, and going to music school. Not forgetting endless guitar-playing. Keeping busy!
In short, in 2008, Tom was 19 years old, attending a good music school in Paris, and yes, having a very good time.
And at 19, that’s what it’s all about! Go for it, Tom!
But don’t forget your family here in Santa Cruz!” He didn’t.
short visit to family in England, Maman, Papa, Charlie and Alex taking a long weekend down the California coast, birthdays and other special days in 2008, kids’ soccer in 2008, portraits in 2008 and, last but not least, the main 2008 journal page.