Elated and proud doesn’t begin to explain how I felt in October of 2018 when my overjoyed son contacted me from China where he auditioned for the percussion spot at the National Center for Performing Arts in Beijing to tell me he won the job. At the time, my happiness for him surpassed my trepidation that he was moving to another country, to another continent.
I knew intimately the depth to which he labored intensely for this accomplishment, remembering his introduction to music before his feet could reach the pedals of the piano. Marching in the school band, trekking into Brooklyn for private lessons, honing his skills at Julliard, and performing in a junior orchestra required the ability to hold up under the acerbity of stern teachers, music directors and conductors. Studying to be an orchestral musician is a monumental investment in time, money and rigor, and requires a thicker skin than I’ll ever have. He made it. How could I feel anything other than joy for him? At the same time, I missed him before the plane even lifted off the runway.
Maybe it was for the best that the events leading up to the final departure were chaotic and tense. With the mindset of the project manager I am, acting as his personal assistant as I have always done, I supported him by collecting documents, sending faxes, writing emails, placing calls and whatever else he needed to comply with stringent immigration requirements. It was my solace to be immersed with him in detail and focused on the goal, distracting me from the fact that I was helping him leave, and pushing away the uneasiness about what that would mean to me and our family.
With his overly optimistic projection of a January 2019 departure, I rushed to organize a farewell party in December at, where else, Peking Duck House in NYC. However, immigration from the U.S. to China surprised us with a trajectory of continuous one-step-forward and two-steps-back struggles, always at a point when we thought it was all signed, sealed and delivered. He didn’t make it to China until April 2019, only to return a week later for a May appointment at the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York to secure his visa, enabling him to finally return to China a week later to officially begin as a full-time member of the orchestra.
It was a wonderful experience for him filled with gala performances, a concert tour to Macau, a climb on the Great Wall of China and multinational friendships. Through WeChat, we wrote, talked and exchanged photos; images from him capturing an Asian backdrop and concert hall, and images from me of his little niece who adores him, and places visited that reminded me of him. Then along came coronavirus.
Not only is the lethal coronoavirus in the news every day, but working for a global company, the increasing severity of the situation hits me in a continuous loop as my company posts updates to address concerns for our own and for our clients’ employees. The orchestra was on break for the Chinese New Year, and then canceled February concerts followed by March. At first he thought the gravity of the virus was overblown by the media, and he was taking advantage of the quieter streets in Beijing, normally swarming with people. But he had to wear a mask and get his temperature taken everywhere he went. Then medical officials started to come to his door to check on him. Finally, his fear of getting yanked into quarantine unnecessarily if he coughed in public eclipsed his fear of getting sick.
It was an ordeal making arrangements to return, packing four bags of all his possessions, instruments in tow. Thankfully, he made it to the U.S. and through CDC screening at the airport. And now my baby is home. He seems well but is under 14-day monitoring by the local health department as a precaution. Not only am I delighted he plans to be here for upcoming special family events, not the least of which is a nephew soon to be welcomed into the world, but that he has maintained his upbeat outlook. It was a great adventure, and he has a new appreciation for his home soil. And isn’t it fitting, that after carrying the anticipation of holding him in my arms for nine months from the time he first left until now, I myself feel reborn.