After taking Tommy to the Greek food eatathon, we dropped him off at Pellissippi to spend the day watching hot air balloons with his friend. Then, we went on an extremely rare dinner outing with our friends. Before we even had our food on the table, my phone rang. “The glow is at eight. You have to be here.” Tommy could have clarified that the glow was a low tech laser light show. It didn’t matter though, we were having dinner, not watching balloons. I ate a few bites and my phone beeped with a text message. “It’ll be cool.” A few more bites and another message. “The world’s largest hot air balloon is here.” After a dozen text messages, I gave up on getting to talk to the grownups and we rushed to find out what was going on with Tommy. As we walked toward the crowd, Doug wondered aloud if Tommy was overstimmed by the festival. I was instantly aware of the muggy heat, large crowds, loud music, flame noises, food smells and fuel vapors. I distractedly clicked pictures while searching for Tommy. We made our way around the lake and searched the balloon area. Doug spotted him first. I just stood there in disbelief. My child, who I worry about constantly, was intensely focused on the hot air balloon at the end of the rope he was holding. I walked closer, my mouth hanging open so wide I could have captured half a dozen gnats. Tommy saw me and barely nodded. He worked the rope with more concentration and physical strength than I have ever seen from him. Not only did he work the balloon crew all day, he stayed there for several hours afterward to help with the takedown and packing. Except for the part where I was recruited to hoist the flattened and folded balloon into its’ storage cart, I watched Tommy instead of the balloons. I watched a completely different person than the boy who I left at college last month. I don’t know if Tommy will pass his classes. He went such a long time without any education during his childhood that he has serious gaps in his abilities. He can tell you about history, but he can’t write down what he knows. Tommy is going to be okay though. He may live a nomadic life following hot air balloons around the world or he might work on a horse ranch. I am no longer clearing the path for him. Tommy is paving his own road.