21: First Steps

On the morning of our visit at exactly 10:30, a cadet burst through the barrack doors and began to bellow, “Waaaaake uuuuup!”  (Many cadets had slept in since they were given permission to do so.)  M turned to us and said, “That’s my alarm too; I better get going.  I need to get ready and dress in my blues.  We’ll meet for lunch at noon in the mess hall.”

     I couldn’t wait to see him again, and finally around 11:30 cadets began to arrive in the courtyard.  They seemed to be gathering in specific locations within the courtyard, each dressed impeccably in their winter blues.  (Since M arrived to the academy late in the semester, his navy jacket was not ready for him yet, so he would be wearing everything but his jacket.) And knowing that M would not be in his navy jacket, I figured it would be easy to spot him approaching the courtyard.
     I noticed a tall young man walking swiftly, wearing uniform – minus the jacket, from the direction of his barracks.  I turned to my husband and son K, “That looks like him, but that boy is walking too fast to be him.  That’s not the way he walks.” We continued to search, but soon my eyes went back to the boy walking tall, quickly, and soldier-like.
     It was him, and I was stunned.  In fact, we were all stunned.  How is his body moving like that?  The body I know to be his moves slowly, with shoulders that are a bit hunched, and has a head that seems to bob back and forth with every slow step.  This was incredible.
     Soon the drums began to echo off the buildings, and the cadets, including my own son, began their fancy footwork.  This was better than watching him take his first steps when he was a baby.  The ceremonial beating of the drum, the rhythmic chants of the cadets, and my son taking his first steps brought tears to my eyes.  I was watching him take his first steps all over again.


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