Driving home from work the other day, I deviated from my usual route to pick up man-child Jack from football practice. (His twin and co-driver, Charlie, is currently in an immobilizer after shoulder surgery last week. He’d already driven himself and Sam home from school, so he was done driving for the day.) I’ll admit, it’s been a small slice of heaven since the boys acquired their own car last spring. My daily Uber-ing was cut in half, having to only pull a pick-up from the elementary school. As delightful as it’s been to let them shuttle themselves, there are times I miss our car time together. We had a lot of good conversations over the years, as I schlepped them to school, practices, games, friends’ houses, etc. Of course, there were also a fair amount of disagreements, flat-out arguments, nit-picking, and other vocal unrest that would leave me shouting, “Not. One. More. Word. From. Anyone. Until. We. Get. Home.” I’ve mostly blocked those instances, opting to recall high-spirits and hilarity that often filled my car. So, having to swing by the high school on my way home made me smile more than eye-roll and sigh.
Taking an alternate route led me past the hospital where the twins were born, a little over 18 years ago. Eighteen years?! As many wise mothers had warned me, those years did, in fact, pass quickly. Lightning-fast, really. I glanced up and saw the window of our hospital room, located just over the entrance. When the kids were younger, and we’d drive by, I’d always point it out and say, “Look! There’s our room!” I’m sure it lost its charm on them as they grew older, but it’s always a sentimental reminder for me. It also makes me recall the exact second I heard first-born Jack belt out his freedom cry, and the split-second of sheer panic I had, thinking, “I am so not ready for these babies.” I remember being back in the room after my C-Section, lying flat on my back, and having a nurse place two, blanket-wrapped newborns on my chest. And then, the next morning when a nurse brought me Jack, while Charlie stayed in the nursery until he could regulate his temperature. He was freshly bathed, smelling of baby soap, and his dark hair was slicked into an adorable comb-over. He looked like a tiny little gentleman, all spruced up to go visit his Mama. Thinking of them as babies, led me to remembering them as toddlers, then pre-schoolers, then school-aged, middle school… and somewhere along the line, they got man-voices, grew facial hair, and shot up to 6-ft. tall. When they were 3 or 4 and I could pick up each one and perch him on a hip — there was a time when I bent over to put them down,… and it was the last time I’d do that. For each of the kids, there was a last time I’d pick them up and hold them in my arms. Of course it never occurred to me at the time, but now? Oh, man… what I’d give to have them be that young again. Young enough to hold and cuddle one more time. Small enough to have them nuzzled under my chin, kissing their duck-fuzz baby hair as they drift off to sleep. If I think about it long enough, I come to understand when people say that their arms “ache” to hold someone.
And it isn’t just for Jack and Charlie; it goes for all our kids. While we are so incredibly proud of each one, for what they’re doing and where they are in life — there’s always going to be a little part of me that wishes back the days when they were holdable. (Yes, it’s a word. At least now anyway.)
When I reached the school and waited for practice to finish, I had more time to think. It isn’t a luxury I have very often, so I turned off the car, enjoyed the late afternoon sun and let each memory lead to the next. Thinking “in the now” almost 100 percent of the time is crazy and chaotic. What needs done today? Where do we need to be? What do I need to do for tomorrow? Next week? Next month? And while my brain is buzzing with all these “thinks,” all the memories get pushed aside, boxed up and, eventually, stacked neatly somewhere in mental storage. Then, all it takes is a few minutes of peace, or the visual prompt of a hospital room window, to tip over those boxes, spilling memories all over the place. And unlike dealing with spills in real life, I’m happy to go slow about the clean-up… and sit… just thinking.