My Son, the Factory Worker

When the phone rang yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t have been more delighted. I recognized the number immediately – it was my 18-year old son calling from Europe.

The last time we talked, he was fresh off 20 long hours of travel. He was weary, but excited to find himself overseas again. He was ready to begin his “first real job” in a bustling city filled with medieval architecture and contemporary nightlife.

A side benefit?

His cousins and grandparents were only an hour away.

Like mother, like son?

Drop my kid in France, or pretty much anywhere in Western Europe, and he blossoms.

I listened to my son chat. He recounted the story of his first day of work, as my stalwart teen traveler made his appearance suited up professionally. With some amusement (from his new boss), he was instructed to change clothes. He was hitting the production line.

My son, the factory worker.

I can picture him rolling with it, donning a jumpsuit, and following along as he was shown how to sandblast something, and assemble something else I can’t recall. Suffice it to say, he is taking things apart or putting them together. Right up his alley.

More importantly, he’s learning about the real world, in very real ways. Total self-sufficiency. What it’s like to get up early, fix breakfast, pack a lunch, commute, then spend a long day at physical labor, only to commute home, cook, and drop into bed. Of course, he’s 18, so I imagine he isn’t dropping into bed at an early hour, tired or not.

“I’m making my own lunches and bringing them,” he said (sounding rather pleased with himself).

“I haven’t been able to do laundry yet,” he continued.

(I refrained from comment; it’s been 10 days.)

He went on: “By the time I get home from work it’s late, there’s no washer or dryer in the apartment, and nowhere around to take my clothes. But a woman at the plant has offered to do my laundry. I just need to coordinate with her. I’m walking to the store now, to buy bread.”

I looked at my watch. 10 pm, his time.

Yes indeed. Adolescent energy, not to mention the capacity to charm women, in several languages.

“It’s a taste of the real world, isn’t it,” I said, thinking that he doesn’t even have a bicycle to get around, as he did when he lived in France two years ago.

He chuckled, and went on to tell me how he hopes to coordinate activities for the weekend, despite the fact that his cousins are all in summer school. He’d like to manage a few days in Amsterdam, a city he’s never seen, where he’ll no doubt stroll the infamous Red Light District. Otherwise, there’s Paris, and a Belgian music festival at the end of the summer that’s very Woodstock, and he’s attended before. And if I know my kid – those plans are solidified.

Even as I note a hint of loneliness in his voice, I know how good this experience is for him. The hard work of daily adult life. The discoveries of many firsts. The use of several languages.

And I tell myself how fortunate I am, that he’s doing so well. And that he calls me like this, just to talk.


© D. A. Wolf