Just Like That

I’m sitting here in my office working on bills as if it were any other Saturday even though a seismic shift occurred in my world less than 24 hours ago.  Because life does, in fact, go on.

Twenty-two-and-a-half years ago, give or take, we welcomed our third child.  This was our second baby in just over a year, and we brought him home to a 2.5 bedroom apartment and placed him in the cradle by our bed, which we hadn’t even bothered to put away between babies.

We named this 12 lb. bundle of joy Richard Theodore because I’d always wanted a boy I could call Teddy, and the name suited him well as he grew from big baby to roly-poly toddler who filled out 4T rompers by the time he was a year old.

Teddy and the Teletubbies 2

Teddy was my baby for six years.  I developed extremely toned biceps from toting around my 75 lb. four-year-old.  He was none too pleased about the arrival of his baby brother, but he was in kindergarten by then and already building a reputation as the smart, academic achiever that he would continue to be all the way through college.

Teddy Zorro Birthday 2

You know the rest of the story.  The days are long but the years are short and all that.

Teddy (or to use his preferred name, Theo) graduated from college in May.  Yesterday I dropped him off at the airport.  Now he’s in San Francisco, where he’ll start his first professional job on Monday.

Right now I feel like posting a comment on every baby picture I see on Facebook saying enjoy them while you can they grow so fast but that’s not a thing that anyone really understands or wants to hear when their kids are fretful infants or whining toddlers or stubborn preschoolers.  I’ve read many a thread and post complaining about the meddlesome old ladies who say those kinds of things.  But here’s the deal:  we aren’t trying to be bossy or irritating or to minimize the work and stress of coping with small children–we just want you to realize what we didn’t; we want you to fully experience the joy of what you have, because we would give anything just to have one more day of it.

Because twenty-two-and-a-half years ago I brought a baby boy home from the hospital.

And just like that, he was gone.

Teddy Leaving for SF

Letting Go

“Is there anything to eat?”

I think that’s maybe what I’ll miss the most–my hungry boy saying those words to me, in person or on the phone, usually multiple times on any given day.  I almost cried this weekend watching him fight his way through the mob in the cafeteria, trying to fill up his plate with meat.  I wished he could just sit down somewhere and wait while I sauteed a pan of boneless chicken tenders, just the way he likes them.

We left him at Notre Dame yesterday, about to begin his big adventure.  I’m not worried about him.  I’ve been through four years of college with one kid already and I know we will all be okay.  But I also know that things will never be the same.  Teddy is in many ways a closed book to me, with his own thoughts and his own life that he does not share.  But he still relies on me for certain things, and that is going to change.

When he was little, when he needed me, he would say, “Hold mine hand.”  He didn’t want to hold hands for long, just for a few seconds, until he felt better.  He’s always been good at letting go.  But he let me hold his hand this weekend, and he didn’t make a fuss when I played with his beautiful, thick, too-long hair.   He hugged me good-bye, and when I cried he hugged me again.

I was the one to let go, to say good-bye and turn and walk away.  One morning you go to a hospital, and you leave with a baby.  Eighteen years later, you go to a college, and leave without one.

Maybe only a mother can look at a six foot 260-lb. man and see her baby.  But I do.

Teddy Pumpkin
ND goodbye 3
Letting Go
UPDATE: This morning Teddy left to begin his Senior year at Notre Dame. The good-byes definitely get easier, but the homecomings are no less exciting! As I expected when I wrote this, we have seen less and less of Teddy. He came home that first summer, but worked in Chicago the following summer and was in in Stamford, Connecticut this summer. His end-of-summer visit home this year was interrupted by trips to New York City and San Francisco for job interviews. But he still likes me to feed him when he is home, and I find he still depends on us for help with a few things, even as he heads toward becoming a full-fledged adult.

UPDATE PART II:  Teddy graduated in May 2017 and moved to San Francisco in July.   

She'll Be Gone

emily baby 1
It’s late, and I haven’t had time to post anything today, so I thought I’d share something I wrote a long–VERY LONG–time ago (about 15 years ago). [edit: this happened in 1993] The incident I recount below touched me so much at the time that I wanted to write it down so I wouldn’t forget it.  When you read it you will see why it is even more moving to me now than it was then.
A high school friend was finally getting married (at the ripe old age of 25), and had come to pick me up to take me to the bridal salon to be measured and to see the bridesmaid’s dresses.  My daughter, Emily, just awakened from a nap and actively experiencing a case of the terrible twos, screamed the whole way there.  We met up with another friend at the salon, and busied ourselves in oohing and aahing over the dresses and moaning and groaning over our measurements.
Emily, of course, was busy too–running in and out of dressing rooms, rifling through the racks of dresses, and squealing with delight as I chased her and dragged her back, over and over.  Watching as she pulled out dress after dress for her perusal, I’ll admit that I had a brief vision of her in twenty years or so, with her dark hair veiled in white, but I thought more about how exasperated I was, and how much fun this outing would have been if her daddy (at a study group with law school friends) could have been home to watch her.
There were other customers in the salon, including a mother, father, and little sister watching a prospective bride try on gowns in search of that perfect one for her special day.  Emily, naturally, was already making friends with them, having struck up a conversation by saying,“This is a stupid place to be.”  The father, still in his delivery man’s uniform after a day of hard work, and the freckle-faced little sister, listened tolerantly as the mother complimented Emily’s unusual verbosity and talked about her own daughters.
Back in our corner with Emily firmly–for the moment–in tow, my friends and I watched the scene.  Surely, we said, from the vantage point of our advanced age and experience (we were all 25 and two of us had been married several years), that girl was too young to be married. We could all feel the poignancy of the scene–the parents watching their red-headed teenager about to take the step they had taken years before, seeing her transfigured as she tried on gown after gown of bridal white.
Emily had her own comments to make.  “She’s an angel, Mommy.  She’s beautiful!”  She trotted back over again to say, “I love you, Angel.”
The family turned their attention to the invitation books and I continued to chase Emily around the store while my friends discussed the exorbitant prices with the consultant. Finally, we were finished and I retrieved Emily from the men’s dressing rooms for the twentieth time, holding tightly to her 30 lb., wriggling body as she cried to get down.
The mother of the teen-aged bride stopped me.  She put her hand on my arm as she asked, “Is she your only child?”
“So far,” I answered.
“Well,” she said, looking at me so intently that I could see the tears swimming in her eyes, “You enjoy her, you love her, you hold on to her, because,” and she glanced across the room to her own daughter,“before you know it, she’ll be gone.”
I patted this woman, twenty years my senior and a stranger to me, on the arm, and the tears for that rose in my own eyes were both for her and for me, were tears for the pain of parting that all mothers of little girls must feel when their precious babies grow up and become women themselves.
I held my struggling bundle closer as we left the store and when one of my friends asked what the woman had said I replied through my tears, “It was a mother thing.”
Emily is 19 now and left us in August to go to college over 500 miles away.  I remember when she was a newborn baby I used to hear a country song on the radio about a mother helping her daughter get ready to leave for college and I would start to cry thinking about my baby girl growing up and leaving home.  Happily, Emily still seems to like coming home and will be here very soon for the whole summer! [edit: Emily graduated and came back home to live.]

Have you ever shared a touching moment with a stranger?  Do you dread the day your kids leave home?  Or are you secretly looking forward to it?
emily now