Monday, July 7, 2014

No More Cartwheels

There are milestones all through my life that I didn't recognize at the moment. When I was a kid I loved to do cartwheels--when was the final time I did a cartwheel? As a young woman I wore four-inch heels when I wanted to feel especially glamorous--when was the last time I put on a pair of high heels?

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.


  1. Youngest is nearly 5 and has started buckling her own seat belt and I am THRILLED because I'm thisclose to never having to buckle another car seat seat belt again. Of course I'm less thrilled that I'm also thisclose to not having any small hands to hold when crossing the street and to going to the grocery store with someone wearing a tiara and pink cape. Parenting seems a long process of celebration and sadness.

    1. Oh, Maggie, that is so true. I remember my mom telling me to not wish away any stage, because they all have joys and irritations. She also said everything was a stage, and she was absolutely right.

  2. This is was beautiful.

    These thoughts have been going through my head a lot lately as well. Next month will be the last time I send my oldest off to college. Last month was the last time I will ever deal with the local high school (daughter going off to college this fall). And this week was the last time we needed any sort of booster seat for youngest. Now that he's older and oh so tall (confused for a much older child) we've also experienced the last time I take youngest into ladies rest room.

    Based on one of your prior posts, I'm most looking forward to the last time I have to pay for my oldest son's cell phone, rent, insurance, etc. Some lasts are celebrations, for sure!

    1. Oooh, so many transitions. But today (TODAY!) I'm going to change my insurance plan from "family" to "employee plus spouse." Wahoo!

  3. "This is was beautiful." Gosh I need to get my glasses checked!