Oh, once in a while I stop and think "This is the very last time I will ride a roller-coaster--I hate this, and I am never going to do it again," but mostly I have just aged out of things, always thinking I'll run across the grass and pop a cartwheel or wear one some sexy stilettos. But I don't--I can't.
I've done the same thing as a mother. We mark the big milestones--the first tooth lost, the training wheels off the bike, the high school graduation--but I've often missed the little steps that are just as meaningful. When was the last time I lifted a child into a grocery cart? When did I stop carrying little cars in my purse to occupy kids during church? I don't remember.
Last week I made sure I remembered.
"This is the last time I will unpack dishes into a kid's apartment," I thought as crumpled newspaper piled up around me.
We were moving Boy#4 into his first non-student apartment, a four-day process that is the grown-up equivalent of taking the training wheels off the bicycle. Husband and I were hovering in the background, but it was Four signing lease papers and taking possession of mailbox keys. He was the one deciding which couch was most comfortable, and whether he'd rather have a recliner of a loveseat. It wasn't our call on whether a king or a queen mattress would be more comfortable for his 6'3" frame--we could advise, but we weren't buying.
So while Four and his father assembled the desk, I unwrapped dishes and washed silverware. Every few minutes I reminded myself "This is the last time I'll do this." As the guys found Washer A to go on Screw B to hold the television stand together, I put away dishtowels and thought "Last time." While they were discussing whether the bicycle would fit into the storage closet and cutting a security board for the deck door, I was arranging the pantry. For the last time.
No more cartwheels, I thought to myself sadly. No more fancy shoes.
No more Boys.
After all this remembering of what I was leaving behind it was no wonder I cried when we pulled out of the apartment parking lot yesterday. In fact, I cried quite a lot. I was a blubbery mess, blowing my nose into a bandana all the way out of town and through the parking lot that stretches 100 miles between Boy's new hometown and Dallas. I was still snuffly and sad when we arrived home after 10 hours on the road.
But this morning I woke up remembering something: I don't particularly miss doing cartwheels. I still remember that THUD! of my palms hitting the grass, and the dizzy freedom of the instant my feet are in the air before a perfect landing, and I remember the experience without the instant of fear that always accompanied leaving my feet. I can remember the feeling of giddy sleekness of four-inch heels without the toe-numbing pain of wearing them.
I can't do a cartwheel any more. However, I can buy adult beverages without being carded. (I don't actually buy adult beverages, but I COULD.) I can't wear high heels, but I can decide to watch a House of Cards marathon, and no one tells me I have to clean my room instead.
For all the milestones I pass, both marked and unmarked, there are new discoveries and joys and I still have the pre-transition memories imprinted on those parts of my soul that don't disappear with a new age or address.
I can still feel the raucous joy of having Boys filling the House on the Corner, and it was really, really stupid to keep reminding myself of the pain of transition. I can't be the mom of kids any more, but I love being the mom of grown-ups.
No more cartwheels. And that's okay.