Max packed up and left for college the day before my birthday a few weeks ago. He said, “The time went by so quickly, Mom.” I told him, “Yes. It did. And it didn’t.” As they say, the years went fast but the days went slow. I still recall the achy sweet sore baby body fatigue. I recall zombie-ing up out of bed to hold each of my babies in the eternal rocking chair, passing out there until one of us woke again. And starting all over again. But. The memory of holding my sons is my brightest and cleanest. And I clearly recall that the top of each of my son’s baby heads had a scent that is a season I will never forget.
Man, it was so hard for me to let that last baby go. Like I had a choice.
When Shane was an infant, I was working as a legal secretary for a law firm near the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado. I remember that there was a poster in the copy room, with the quote: “Making the decision to become a parent is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
We found Shane a day care a couple blocks away from my work. I would drop him off there in the morning and pick him up on the way home from work. On April 20, 1999, after I dropped Shane off and arrived at work, my office manager told us that our building was locked down because there had been shooting at Columbine High School, in neighboring Jefferson County.
I don’t know when we were allowed to finally leave work that day. I do remember how hard it was knowing I could not go get my baby. I cannot imagine what it was like that day for the parents standing outside Columbine High School, waiting to get their babies. I know that when I held my child that day, I knew exactly what it meant to know my heart was walking around outside of my body. I have never forgotten that.
The day after Max left was my birthday. I woke up at 4 am to thunder and lightning and within hours, our world here was on fire. Again. I had already packed my go bag to evacuate. As the days wore on, I got aggravated at myself for all the sh*t I have accumulated during the 15 years I’ve lived in this house. Lessons of the fires. Get rid of what doesn’t really matter to you. And pack up what does. There’s always, always, a lesson.
Max called me daily and FaceTimed with me. Reminded me of more memorabilia and important items I should pack and take with me. Photos. Books. His old laptop with photos on it. My grandmother’s obi from her wedding kimono.
He texted me. “Stay safe, Mom.”
Shane called me to check in and told me, “I’m going to take some time off work. I’m coming to visit.”
The fires are almost out. We are pretty safe, for now. Tonight, I realized, my babies, my sons, my amazing young men, were steadfastly there for me during this most recent disaster. Every day.
We can try to hide from a scary world and stay safe. Or we can acknowledge that we are f*king afraid, but still taste the juicy peachiness of the present. I’m right there. I think. I don’t know. I miss the hell out of my kids. I have to trust that they will be okay. More importantly, that they are reveling in and experiencing their present moments. Because that’s living.
So yeah, maybe my heart is walking around outside of my body every day. So is my soul. But I know it’s a really good thing. Through the long days and the somehow-fast years, through the exhausted nights, the school open houses, the sports games, the plays, the carpools, the snack days, the performances, the parties, the homework tears, the dinner conversations, though the time went by quickly, it went by oh so sweetly. And I am so grateful that I got to be there for it all. I would not give back a single day.
Sometimes you have to let go of what you love the most to make the world a better place. Even if it is your heart and soul.
You’re welcome, world. You got the very best of me.