I found four drafts of this post from July. We were in Montreal and staying at a hotel that didn't have enough bandwidth to upload this post. So here you have it. But just the once.
A little about today. After finally settling into our Montreal hotel room at 3am, we woke at 10 to get ready for the drive into St. Jean. The occasion? The end of course ceremony for Platoons Hobson and Cairns. This is where 14 weeks of physical and mental fortitude would culminate in recruits becoming graduates, and the beginning of the next chapter in their military lives. By tomorrow, all of the privates will have shipped out to various bases for further education in their chosen trades. In the meantime, it was a chance for them to do their thing in a parade square and for family and friends to see them again.
The Reviewing Officer was Colonel S.M. Cadden. In his end of course speech he thanked the families and likened the graduates to resources that are being checked out of the library. They may be returned worn or tattered around the edges but they will be taken care of. They are part of a team now. Not the biggest military in the world, but the best.
Here's the thing. Seeing Keelan on parade in his dress uniform didn't make me feel like I'd loaned a book to the army. It was more like I'd donated my heart. And the thing about a donation is that it isn't a loan at all. He isn't really mine to give (our children never are), but he was mine first. He was once an infant that I held close. I marveled at blonde curls and blue eyes. I watched him grow, sometimes by little bits and sometimes by big leaps. He is still the baby brother to his sisters. He is his parents' only son. He is my parents' first grandson. He is the best friend of the son of my best friend. He has made this commitment because he has a deep sense of honour. Remember all of that if you cross paths with him. And not just with him, but with any other soul who cares enough to put their life on the line for yours.
The parade was hard. If only because it meant 2 more hours to get through before I would be able to look at him close up. At the reception after the parade, we were able to mingle with the newly-minted private. He's thinner now, most of the muscle he spent months putting on in preparation for basic training gone in a three month race to the finish. But he looks good. Tall, tanned and more confident than I have ever seen him.
The absolute best part of the day? The hello hug from Keelan. And the whispered "You smell like Mom".