In my waning hours of active motherhood, I am sipping tea and listening to tender echoes.
Later today, we will pack up Molly’s things and drive our youngest child to college. Avid cooks, we understand that each has its place in the human palate, but I vehemently disagree with those who call this moment bittersweet.
I am thankful every day for the opportunity to hear my four children call me Mom. Neither the gratitude nor the designation changes when the last child leaves. As with all their moves away from me – birth, weaning, steps, school – I am proud, amused, fascinated and consistently shocked by the swift passage of time. But, bitter? Never.
As this parental denouement rolls out, I am discovering that, even when everything changes, the important stuff remains. Today, that means the echoes.
I can close my eyes and hear:
- The kitchen cacophony of scraping plates, clanging silverware and tiny voices. What’s the best thing that happened to you today? What’s the worst? Did you remember to turn in your permission slip? Did I remember to sign it?
- The intense post-dinner negotiations. “It’s Charlie’s turn for dishes.” “No way, I did them Tuesday.” “We had pizza Tuesday. That doesn’t count.” “I’ll do them tonight if you do them tomorrow” “What’s for dinner tomorrow?”
- The music. The elegant cello and bleating didgeridoo, garage bands and clarinets, shower songs, piano practice and all those glorious impromptu concerts when friends visited and impossibly talented musicians made my living room rock.
- The various intonations of my name. “Mama” “Mommy” Mo-om” “Mom!” “ummm Mrs. Biskupic?” “Mom?” “Mother!”
- The games. This is Jeopardy. Go long! Go Fish. Go directly to jail. Three words. First Word. Sounds like. H-O-R-S-E.
- The panicked searches. “Oh my God! I can’t find my band uniform!” “Where are the car keys?” “Did you wash my lucky shirt?” “I need my Social Security card, not the number, the actual card.” “Who ate the cookies I made for my French class?”
- The laughter bubbling up from our family room and bouncing around the upstairs rooms.
- The noisy tears. Furious sprays of drama. Painful, slow, fat drips.
- The midnight thump of small, bare feet racing nightmares to our bed.
- The last firm click of the side door knob. They’re all here. They’re all home. They’re all safe.
We’re driving back to an empty nest tonight. But, I’m telling you, our hearts are full.