Is this the last time?
Many, many times over the last seven years have I sat in the quiet dark, rocking a child for one reason or another.
Sometimes because he couldn’t sleep.
Sometimes because I couldn’t sleep.
Sometimes because I just felt like having that warm, soft, in-and-out breath on my neck that makes everything seem right with the world.
Knowing that he is my last child, every time I’ve sat in that rocker I’ve wondered…Is this the end? How much longer can I fit this warm, pliant body on my rapidly-shrinking lap?
I remember a day (or a night, rather) not so long ago (as if it were a dream, with fuzzy edges and rounded corners) when the warm, pliant body was so small, so easily cradled in my arms that I was terrified of falling asleep and letting him drop. Swaddled, he was hardly bigger (or weightier) than a rolled-up bath towel.
But now, we struggle a bit, he and I, in the dark, to find that comfortable place. The arms and legs and blanket don’t fit like they used to and even when we are finally folded together in peace, there always seems to be a leg or a foot left over.
It’s been a few weeks since our last tryst and as I stopped into their darkened rooms, to breathe them in for a brief moment on my way to bed, as I always do, the terrifying thought gripped me. Is it over? Was that the end?
Our days are often filled with firsts. We had our first visit by the tooth fairy quite recently, and our first, um, production on the Froggy Potty.
But they are equally filling rapidly with lasts. My last child has seen his last diaper step aside for the first Pull Up. I tossed out the wipes warmer on Saturday simply for lack of use and that act alone brought sadness. Two babies benefited from that silly contraption, during countless midnight diaper changes.
Every size outgrown fills up paper bags with not one, but two sets of memories. Heartsick, I say goodbye to faded t-shirts worn by both. in their own time, the Elmo sneakers (now with holes in the toes), the Christmas sweaters ever-preserved in our family photos.
We are weeks, perhaps days, away from using the high-chair for the last time, the toddler spoons for the last time, the Winnie-the-Pooh plate, the sippy cups…they are all nearing the end of their term of service. All good and appropriate, but still…it’s the end.
The last time I nursed my babies – did I know it was the last time? There had to have been the last time – it was there and then no more. Was I even aware that it was the end?
Last night I had just turned out the light and curled onto my side. Sleep was creeping in at the edges when I heard a scream and then another.
“No!” he screamed. “I don’t want to!”
Sleep bolted, and so did I, for the room across the hall, to wake and to soothe, and yes, once again, to rock.
This time it was my oldest boy who was fighting dreamy demons in the dark.
As I pulled him into my arms, kissing and rocking away the ghouls, he whispered: “Thanks for telling me it was only a dream, mom.” And he curled back into himself, tucking long legs and arms into Yellow Blankie once again.
Perhaps there never really is a true “last time.”
The lasts intertwine with firsts;
with joy we welcome and with tears we say good-bye,
and no matter what…
it is good.