I looked up at my son, who at 14 towers over me, topping my modest 5-foot-5 by a full foot, and saw the details only a mother would see.
His recently cut hair, clipped in his preferred buzz-cut so he can feel air moving on his head when he walks.
His hand-me-down Boston College football T-shirt, chosen so other people could know that his dad was a strong man, who had played college football as a starting lineman.
The scraggly hairs under his jaw that he had missed while shaving that morning, an activity that he detests but still chose to do that day because he knows that I don’t prefer facial hair on men, and he wanted to give me the gift of looking his best.
His belted cargo shorts, so that he could safely stow supplies like matches, a compass, and a Swiss Army knife to be able to provide assistance to anyone who might need help.
The slight bulge of his wallet, containing money not given to him by me, but that he had earned mowing lawns in the heat of the summer, because he had said he wanted to pay his own way, like a man should.
His double-knotted, size 14 hiking boots, a footwear choice perfectly appropriate for the situation, which showed just how much my son had grown in the past year, not only in size, but in maturity.
His socks, mismatched as usual, their white tops emerging at different heights from the tops of those scuffed boots.
The overpowering scent of Axe body spray, a product whose effectiveness my son and other teenage boys seem to think improves when applied by the gallon.
His broad shoulders, filled out over the past year through lifting weights, workouts, and hard physical labor.
His sweet face, with his perpetually congenial expression, kindness shining out of his chocolate-brown eyes.
“I’m good, mom.”
I nodded, then hesitated, trying to remember whether he had given me permission that day to hug him in front of other people.
My son grabbed me in a strong bear hug, wrapping his already massive arms around me, and gently thumped my back with one meaty paw.
“It’s OK, mom. You’re going to be OK without me this week.”
I chuckled, choking back the tears readying to spill.
“I’m more worried about you.”
My son gave me one more solid whump on the back, then let go and stepped back.
“I’m good, mom. I need to go now.”
My son confidently strode off to meet up with the rest of the boys at camp, getting to know the strangers with whom he would be spending the next week. I walked back to the car, my heart full of pride and the pang of loss of the little boy whose hand I used to hold.