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At the breakfast table beside the modest buffet spread, Sam is staring down, apparently deep in thought … Is he hoping this walk deepens our bond as well? Perhaps he’s gathering himself for the long haul ahead. Maybe he’s visualizing the walk, like a pro athlete might visualize a game he’s about to enter.
Then he hisses, “Look.”
“Look where I’m pointing.” There is very real strain in his voice.
“There’s a black hair on my prosciutto.”
The look on Sam’s face is so pained, so stricken, that for an instant it feels as if this errant lock has the power to derail our entire journey. I back away from joining him in taking this horror personally. A parent can orchestrate only so much of his child’s experience. Eventually everyone must navigate the stray hairs of life on their own—and this seems like as good a moment as any to start establishing that adult-to-adult relationship.
“Grab something else, you’re going to get hungry.”
“I just want to get going.” He pushes his chair back.
Out on the street, we head to the nearby Accueil des Pèlerins (Pilgrims’ Office). Because we are getting such a late start, the office is empty, save for the lone, smiling volunteer who speaks a Spanish that sounds distinctly like French. I understand little he says, but we acquire our Pilgrim passports—papers that fold like an accordion and must be stamped at each stop along the way as proof of our journey when we reach Santiago. The volunteer also suggests we each take one of the scallop shells off the table behind us—the traditional pilgrim symbol that nearly all walkers carry, often affixing them to the outside of their back- pack. A badge of pride.