The lanky youth stood at the top of the stairwell. They were all waiting below. He shuddered. He would have been happier if his family had not wanted to hold this celebration. He understood why, but he would have been happier if it wasn’t going on. He sighed, and started down the stairs. His hand slid on the banister, worn by years of children sliding and running hands down it. The big old house creaked with the wind of the early summer storm. It would have been better if the weather had held. There were too many people in too small a space… small space… he’d have to get used to small spaces. His choice of career was going to put him into small spaces. He reached the landing, and stood, memorizing the faces. He knew he wouldn’t be seeing many of them for a long time. He put a party smile on his face, and stepped down the last two steps to the floor in the foyer.
All heads turned as his youngest sister, Missy, called out his name. A loud cheer went up from the room, and a round of ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ was bellowed by the assemblage. When the round was finished, the crowd descended on him, and Charles Philip Morton was deluged with handshakes, kisses, and slaps on the back.
For the most part, the men in the room congratulated him on ‘choosing to serve his country’, while the women cautioned, ‘make sure you take care of yourself!’ and ‘don’t forget to write.’
He carefully made his way through the crowd, graciously accepting the congratulations and accolades, until he found his way to his mother’s side. He kissed her on the cheek, and murmured “Thanks, Mom.”
She smiled back at him, running her hand over his blond hair, “This is what your Dad and I wanted to do for you, Chip. We’re so proud of you, you know.”
“Yes, mom, thanks… Where’s Dad?”
Clarry Morton smiled at her oldest child, “In the den with Uncle Frank and Uncle Vic. They wanted to know all about the Academy, and he offered to tell them what he could, and share some of his books with them.” She looked into Chip’s deep blue eyes, “You’re sure that this is what you want, aren’t you? It’s going to be hard, you know!”
Chip hugged his mother affectionately, “Yes, I’m sure, for the ten thousandth time, and I know… I just hope that I don’t get some geek of a roommate that’ll drive me bonkers.”
“Now Charles Morton! You don’t go making judgments before things are even settled. I just wish you were going to be closer…Maryland’s a long way from Park Ridge. A very long way.”
“Not too far for the Famous Clarry Morton Chocolate Chip Cookies to be sent! Once a week…”
He squeezed her waist and kissed her again. Of all the things he would miss, he would miss his mother’s gentle ways the most. She was the strength of the family, and he thought, with all the aplomb of an 18 year old, that she was the wisest woman in the world. “I’ll be back in a bit. I want to see Dad, and ‘the uncles’”
Clarice Morton turned back to the buffet table, straightening the plates and foods. She shuddered slightly as tears fought to overwhelm her. She would miss her son very much. Her younger daughter, Tess put an arm around her, “It’s okay, Mom. Missy, Sami, me and Suzi are still here. And we love you.”
Clarry put an arm around the ten year old. “I know, honey. And your brother will be back for the Holidays. Its just that he’s going to be a distance away, and I’m going to miss him.”
“Me, too, Mommy. Me too!” She hugged her mother again, and then went off in search of friends to play with. Clarry watched Chip as he entered the den, and moved out of sight. His tall, lanky frame was already straight and he carried himself as if he was already in the military. She was scared for her son, but knew that this is what he wanted, and both she and her husband had and would continue to support him for as long as he wanted them to…
“There you are, boy!” Frank Morton shouted at his nephew. The big man stuck a beefy hand at the teen. “Your dad has been telling us all about the Academy. Seems to me it’s going to be quite a place to be! You’re mighty lucky to have gotten in! The best and the brightest is all that they take! Guess that makes you something special!”
Chip took his uncle’s hand and shook it, “Thank you, sir. I’m glad I’m going. Looking forward to it actually.”
Victor Morton clapped his hand on Chip’s shoulder. “And well you should be… away from here… see the world, that’s what they say about the Navy, isn’t it?”
Chip eased himself out of the arm on his shoulder, “Yessir. That’s what they say, but it’s a few years off for me. Got to get the schooling over and then I’ll see the world.”
“Given any thought to what branch you want to go into…?” Frank asked.
“Yessir, I think I want to be in boats, nuclear boats.”
“Sub service, huh? Good choice. Dangerous but good!”
Joe Morton moved next to his son, “Don’t tell his mother that, Frank. She’s nervous enough as it is about this… right, son?”
“Right, Dad. And I’ll tell her when I have to… I don’t want her to worry too much. She’s worried enough as it is…”
The three men nodded, and Clarry came to the door of the den, “Foods ready! Chip, come out here, and say hello to the rest of your guests. Don’t you three monopolize him. All these folks came to say goodbye.”
“Coming, Clarry.” Joe smiled. He turned to his son, “Let’s go, Chip. Can’t keep your public waiting!”
Later that night, Chip lay in his bed. Tomorrow, he was leaving for Annapolis. He was going to miss his family, but what a future he was looking for. He would never be far from them. He would always be in touch with them, have their love, and support… but tomorrow….tomorrow his life was truly going to begin!
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