The clock radio woke him up at five-thirty. He jumped out of bed and turned off the alarm, then sat down to wait for the rest of his body to face up to the fact that it was morning.
He went into the bathroom and shaved. Before taking his shower, he weighed himself. One hundred and sixty pounds, he thought. I need to remember that.
He could hear his mother in the kitchen fixing breakfast. He knew his father would have been up for at least an hour already, seeing to the chores that needed doing on the family farm before they left for the airport.
After he was dressed, he packed his pajamas and shaving kit, then checked to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. He read a few pages in the Book of Mormon. At one point he glanced up at the picture of MacKenzie on his bookcase. In the picture she wore a white blouse and seemed to be looking just over his shoulder. The picture was too big to pack. He reminded himself to ask her for a smaller picture.
I wonder if she’ll wake up in time to come see me off, he thought. She doesn’t like to get up this early. Of course nobody likes to get up this early except Dad.
A minute later his father knocked on his door.
His father, still in his winter coat and a cap with strange looking ear flaps for the cold, poked his head into the room. “I see you made it up. Are you all ready?”
“I wish we were taking you to the MTC.”
“The trip would’ve been too hard on Mom. And I know it’s hard for you to get away. I’ll be fine.” He stood up. “I guess I’m ready.”
“Your mom has breakfast all fixed. By the way, she got up early to make you blueberry muffins so you be sure and make a fuss about ’em.”
They walked into the kitchen of the old farmhouse.
“Here’s your missionary son,” his dad proudly announced.
He hugged his mother. “Mom, everything smells great. You didn’t need to go to all this trouble.”
“What trouble? It’s just a little breakfast.”
“Let’s have family prayer,” his father said.
“I think this morning we should kneel,” his mother said. Because of his mother’s arthritis they had long ago quit kneeling for family prayer.
“Heavenly Father doesn’t expect you to kneel,” he said.
“I know, but this is one morning when I think we should.”
“I’ll go get a cushion from the living room couch,” he said.
“You don’t have to go to so much trouble,” she said, but it was too late. He set the cushion on the kitchen floor and he and his dad helped her down.
His father offered the prayer. His voice nearly broke when he asked Heavenly Father to bless his son and keep him safe on his mission and to give him a closeness to the Spirit. And then, almost as an afterthought, he asked for a blessing on the food.
They helped his mother up, and then they all sat down at the table. The table looked like his mother had wanted to give him enough food to last him for two years.
“Mom, thanks for making blueberry muffins. You know how much I love them. And nobody can make them like you can.”
“Oh, there’s nothing to it. I just follow the recipe.” She passed him a plate. “You can either have bacon or sausage with your eggs.”
“Or have both if you want,” his dad added.
“I think I’ll have a little bacon,” he said.
“Now you should start out with half a grapefruit. It has your vitamin C. That’s very important. Try to have an orange or grapefruit once a day if you can.”
He hated grapefruit, he always had, and he was nearly certain that he always would. But because this was his last day with them for two years, he dutifully ate his half a grapefruit.
Like a leaky tire that kept needing to be pumped up, the conversation kept drifting into silence—not because they didn’t have anything to say, but because they had too much to say. They knew that this day would bring a profound change in their lives. Because they could not talk easily about the big things, they settled for the small.
“Do you remember what I told you about your white shirts?” his mother asked.
“Don’t wash them in hot water.”
“That’s right. Do you want to take a little bottle of spot remover? You could use it for your suits.”
“I don’t think I’ll need it.”
“Well, you never know.”
“If I need it, I could buy it there.”
“Maybe so, but it’s better to be prepared. Let me show you what I’m talking about.” She went to the cupboard and got a small bottle of spot remover. “This is how you use it,” she said, going over the directions. “Can you remember that?”
“Are there directions on the label?” he asked.
“I’ll just read them then if I need to use it.”
“Do you have room in your suitcase for it?”
“I really don’t think I’ll need it.”
“Well it can’t hurt to be prepared. Why don’t you just put it in?”
He looked at her and realized how much he loved her. “Sure, Mom, I’ll put it in my suitcase. I bet it’ll really be useful.”
They began to eat.
“I wonder if MacKenzie is up,” he said.
“She’ll be up. She wouldn’t miss this for the world,” his mother said.
“I know, but she worked late last night. I just hope she didn’t turn off her alarm. She does that sometimes you know. Like that time I was going to take her fishing. She was still asleep when I showed up to get her. The only one up was her father.”
“Fathers never sleep,” his dad said. And then he looked at the kitchen clock. “We’d better leave soon.”
“I’ll leave the dishes until afterwards,” his mother said.
A minute later they put his two suitcases in the trunk of the family car.
“Now do you have your plane ticket?” his mother asked.
“Do you have your wallet?”
“Yes, it’s right here.”
“Do you have your temple recommend?”
“It’s in my wallet.”
“And you have the checks for housing and food and books for the MTC?”
“Did you remember the bottle of spot remover?” his mother asked.
“Nope. I forgot. It’s on my bed. I’ll go get it.”
He ran in the house, grabbed the small bottle, and hurried back to the car. He packed the bottle in one of his suitcases.
They drove cautiously through the snow-packed roads to the airport. His father always liked to be on the safe side. The travel agent suggested they arrive at least half an hour before departure; they arrived forty-five minutes early.
After checking in they walked to the gate. Looking out the frost-stained windows at the plane which had spent the night there on the ground, he found it impossible to believe that something that heavy could ever get up in the air. This would be his first flight in an airplane.
They sat down to wait.
Do you remember what I told you about how to sew on buttons?” his mother asked.
“Sure, no problem.”
“Now you’re not going to use safety pins like you did that one time, are you?”
“No, Mom, I’ll sew them on just the way you showed me.”
“And have some hot cereal once in a while,” she added. “It’s very good for you.”
He hated hot cereal. “Sure, once in a while.”
The man who worked for the airline went to a microphone and announced they would now begin general boarding.
“You’d better get in line so you’ll get a good seat,” his father said.
“They told me my seat was assigned already.”
“Is it by a window?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well if it isn’t by a window maybe you can switch.”
He heard the sound of someone running. He looked around and saw MacKenzie. He wanted to run to her and throw his arms around her, but he decided he’d better not because he’d been set apart as a missionary on Sunday and his stake president told him that from now on it was arm’s length.
She came up to them. “Sorry,” she said. “I had trouble with my car.”
“What was the problem?” his dad asked.
“I don’t know. It wouldn’t start. I ended up having to use my dad’s pickup.”
“I’m glad you made it,” he said. The only thing he could do now was shake her hand, so that’s what he did. She, understanding his predicament, fought back a smile and said, “Well, Elder, I guess this is it. Your dream of serving a mission has now come true.”
He was still holding her hand. “You won’t forget to write, will you?”
“No chance of that happening.”
“Please send me a picture of you I can put in my wallet.” He paused. “I love you.”
“I know that. I love you too. Be a good missionary, okay?”
“Okay. Send lots of chocolate chip cookies.”
“A lot of people have already gotten on the plane,” his father said.
“I suppose it’s time then,” he said.
Just before he made it to the ticket agent, a small girl on the way to the plane brushed up against him with a wet sticky chocolate candy bar. A stain appeared on his suit.
“The spot remover will get that off,” his mother said triumphantly.
He gave the ticket to the man. His father leaned over and asked, “Could my son have a seat by the window? It’s his first flight.”
The man nodded his head and turned to him. “The plane’s not full. You can pretty much sit anywhere you want.”
He turned around to look at his mother and dad. There were so many things left unsaid, but he didn’t think he could say any of them now. They knew he loved them. That was the most important thing of all.
“Have a safe trip,” his father said as they hugged each other. “And write us.”
“I will. Thanks for everything, Dad.” He turned to his mother. “Thanks for the wonderful breakfast, Mom.”
She, with tears running down her face, could only nod her head.
“Son, it’s time you boarded,” the ticket agent said.
“MacKenzie, thanks for getting up so early to come see me off.”
She had tears in her eyes. He held her hand for just a second and then turned and walked quickly down the jetway to the plane.
His mission had begun.