… Sorry, that’s redundant. I meant “more emotional than usual, even given the teen thing.”
We were chaperoning a group of kids on year-long exchanges from all corners of the globe. On a regular basis during the year, these kids would leave their various host homes scattered across Idaho to gather in a central location. They bonded, comparing notes on their new lives in mostly rural places they may previously believed were only contrived as a setting for Napoleon Dynamite.
I’ve been blown away by their resilience, buoyed in part by their adoption of the mantra: “it’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.”
The girl from Turkey didn’t flinch when talking to an acquaintance who didn’t realize Turkey is a country as well as the name of a bird.
The boy from Argentina just smiled when a classmate was astonished that there were “actually still humans living down there.”
Each time the kids converged, they shared stories of such awkward encounters and misunderstandings, and forged the ties that are the hallmarks of adolescence, strengthened by the intensity of their circumstances. At this gathering, like every other, they stayed up way too late talking, taking selfies, and laughing.
… and realizing they’d each leave for home in a matter of weeks, possibly never to set foot here again.
By the time the weekend wrapped up, they were exhausted and overwrought.
On Sunday morning, while we adults were sorting through luggage, dividing up coolers, and discussing which kid was going where and who still needed a ride, we were surrounded by disheveled teenagers who’d been up way too late the night before.
Some were sobbing. Some were slapping each other on the backs and trying not to look like they were sobbing. Others were hugging and sobbing.
You can’t say goodbye in a situation this that without some sort of rigmarole.
Good thing there was Glenn.
Glenn might be a practicing yogi, or a bonafide shaman. Or just a regular hippy.
Anyway, Glenn knew what to do.
He gathered sobbing kids and rushing adults into a large circle there on the sun-drenched driveway for a final goodbye.
For this exercise, he started explaining, we’d have to be familiar with the concept of Namaste. And then wah, wah, something, something I didn’t hear because I was occupied. The girl from Turkey wanted me to text photos I took of her speech the day before, which was preceded by a full two minutes of my looking for the reading glasses perched on my head.
By the time I put my phone away and muscled my way into Glenn’s big circle and realized there was something seriously corny about to go down, it was too late to look occupied with something else.
Glen sang a few lines of a song. We were to repeat after him.
I honor the place in you, where the entire universe dwells
I honor the place in me, where the entire universe dwells
Namaste, Namaste-ay-ay-ay, Nah. Mah. Stayyy.
We all sang, facing into the circle. Boys and girls sobbing, adults giving that universal chin-jutting-pout that says oh, you poor things, let’s just get you all in the cars so we can go. We all have things to do. Stop crying. Come on, honey. I’ll buy you a latte.
We sang. Then Glenn said we had to turn to face EACH OTHER and sing. We had to do some swishy thing with our hands, too, I guess we were embracing the universe or something.
Then we had to look deep into each other’s eyes and HOLD HANDS.
I don’t do a lot of deep looking into anyone’s eyes, unless I’m trying to help find a stray lash. The likelihood of my holding hands with someone is usually directly proportional to their propensity for running out into traffic otherwise.
I honor the place in you ….
It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.
Where the entire universe dwells ….
If I had worn my sunglasses, this kid wouldn’t be able to tell I was looking over his shoulder instead of deep into his eyes.
I honor the place in me ….
I wondered if I even brushed my teeth that morning. My breath probably smelled like a dog’s butthole.
Where the entire universe dwells ….
Was my eye twitching? Dammit. Where WERE my sunglasses, anyway?
Now we were supposed to hold hands. Could I wipe mine off on my pants first? I was pretty sure they were damp. My hands, not my pants.
Was there another one after this?
Nah. Mah. Stayyy.
Yup. Wait, which side was I supposed to go around? This was weird. Hang on. Okay, you’re to my right and … there we go.
I honor the place in you …
And so it went. Namaste our partner, swing around him or her to find another partner and so on. Around in a big circle. Sing. Swishy hand-thing. Swing. Repeat.
There were probably forty of us.
This could take all day.
About halfway through the circle, Glenn changed things up.
“Okay, everyone turn to the inside of the circle and pair up with someone random.”
I ended up facing outside the circle. I don’t know why. I turned back in and … no one. Everyone had paired up with someone else already. I just pretended I was with another pair.
Gobs of awkwardness. And no partner. And here we were at the point where we were supposed to be locking eyes and holding hands with someone.
I put my hands on the shoulders of the other pair. They reached out and grabbed me. It kind of made me panic. A little.
Nah. Mah. Stayyy.
Then we were done.
The rest of the good byes went pretty quickly after that. The sobbing was done.
It was helpful, I think. The Namaste thing. I’m going to break it out the next time we’re leaving a family dinner and the goodbyes stretch as they’re wont to do. … Just one more story, … oh I forgot to load you up with leftovers. … Do we even know where our children are? …. Somebody remember the dog’s leash.
Oh, for God’s sake. JUST GET IN THE CAR.
Next time, I’ll suggest we all just look deep into each other’s eyes and sing.
Hand swishing optional.
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