Monday, September 1, 2014

Last Times

I pulled up the sheets and listened to the rain drumming on the roof. This was one of the last nights of the last weekend of "unofficial" summer, and the kids and I were in Maine at Dan's grandparents' house.

We'd had such a fun day. There'd been the family party with relatives we hadn't seen in years. Dan came up too and surprised everyone. We all sat and talked and I basked in the way it was somehow easier to take care of three kids than two, now that the older two are, well, older, and Ethan no longer needs to be hovered over quite so much.

But now I was listening to the rain, and thinking of how many times I'd slept in this house over the past 20 years since Dan and I had met, and suddenly I was thrown back to my own grandmother's house and the sleepovers of my childhood.

In an instant, I could see, I could hear it all: Nonna picking basil from her garden on warm summer evenings and putting it in a little glass in the kitchen. The small dish of vanilla ice cream she always served me before bed; the blue crystal soap flakes she shook into my bath water so it looked like "the ocean." I could feel the softness of the towel and smell the sweetness of baby powder as she patted me dry.

I could see little me in that big bed in the room with the nightlight and scary shadows. I could hear the comforting murmur of the television downstairs where Nonna laughed at Saturday night sitcoms while I tried to sleep.

In the dead of night, her cuckoo clock would count down each hour, and I would wonder what it was like for Nonna, sleeping in the room next door all alone since my grandfather had died years earlier. In the morning there were runny eggs for breakfast (eggs were not her strong point) and the mourning dove always cooed from the pine trees that bordered Old Lady Novak's yard next door.

I could see it all; I could almost taste the memory, but what struck me was the thought: When was the last time I slept over at Nonna's? When was the last time I'd slept under those crisp sheets so neatly folded over in the big twin bed? When was the last time, before I got my part time job and became too old for such things; before Nonna stopped remembering and had to go live in the home?

I had no idea.

During pregnancy, it's the type of thing people like to say, the type of thing I said to myself this last time around, knowing (aside from some serious divine intervention) that we are DONE adding to our family. Enjoy this. You will never have this again. Remember each baby kick. Remember the feeling of the tiniest of humans cradled in your arms.

I had to wean Chloe early, due to having to take some eye drops for early glaucoma that are not safe for nursing. And while to be honest I think breastfeeding is kind of a pain, and I certainly would never be called a poster child for the La Leche League, I sat there with her cradled in my arms as she nursed that weekend I was weaning her and wondered, tears streaming down my face, Is this the last time I will ever nurse a baby? I couldn't bear to think of it, so I kept telling myself maybe not. Maybe not. Maybe the next feeding would be the last time. Or the one after that.

When Anna pulls out her My Little Ponies or Lalaloopies from under her bed and brushes off the dust, the fleeting thought comes: Will she ever want to play with these again?

Lying awake last night and listening to the rain whisper, I wondered if it isn't better to not know. That whatever that night was when I was 13 or 14 when for the last time I ate Nonna's ice cream and fell asleep to her listening to the "Golden Girls" laugh track, it was better that I stepped unknowingly up another rung of the ladder called Growing Up, and she eased ever-closer to getting old, growing less independent.

Sometimes knowing these things would break us. We can't live in that state of melancholy, always trying to snap mental pictures and morbidly wondering when the good times will end.

But I wonder if we can't just carry that thought in the back of our minds like a little whisper. Maybe for those times when life seems stale; the kids are driving us bonkers; family gatherings feel like stress-inducing obligations.

There is something happening today that we may never have again. Something sweet. Stop for just a moment. Make sure you don't miss it.


Floortime Lite Mama said...

Ahhh Deb
how often have I felt the same exact thoughts

Kathy said...

Beautifully written!