By: Tosha Woronov
Several months ago I wrote about my and my husband’s decision to not have any more children. [My One and Only] I wrote a little about his enviable conviction in our choice to stop at one and I wrote a lot about my angst. (Of course, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I stood on the sure side of any important decision. Unfortunately, I just don’t roll that way.)
A big part of my uncertainty rests not at all in wanting a baby now, but in needing (or thinking I’ll need) a child later. Down the road. When there are no more tears to wipe or Cheerios to buy or artwork to organize. When I am suddenly needed…less. What will I do with myself then?
This has always been the part of parenthood that worries me most. L growing up. Growing up, up, up and away.
I know that I’m supposed to welcome L’s growth –foster it, in fact. It’s my job, right? (And no parent believes you should relish or enjoy it, our chicks leaving the nest and all. I’m well aware that I’m preaching to the choir here.)
And I know that it would be freakish if he didn’t want to establish his independence and move on; that the outcome to aim for is to have your child grow up and leave you, but to do so with your relationship intact and strong…so that he eventually comes back. Comes back to share a meal, a slice of his life, his new favorite music, the washing machine.
For six years I’ve felt a disconnect between my husband and me that existed for no other reason than that another bond had taken its place. This baby rocked my world. A love like no other, etc. My husband had to take a backseat.
Now that L is really growing;
-and starting to ignore me;
-and becoming annoyed by my inquiries about school;
-and wanting to play games on my iPhone instead of Twenty Questions;
-and not approving of the baseball hat I’m wearing (what the f-?);
-and wanting to go to his buddy’s house instead of “doing art” with his mom;
-and talking about farts rather than my eternal beauty…
Now that these events -these natural and healthy events -are occurring, so is a new disconnect. Between L and me. So guess what?
I’m open to my husband again.
And I wonder if that’s the secret to a marriage surviving kids? Stick it out and allow the connections to form – and break – as they may. Ride it out until it’s just you and your spouse again.
He never stopped being my best friend, an amazing father, a great date. But now I see…he’s my rock.
And he won’t grow up. And he won’t grow away. And if I play my cards right, he just might, with me, grow old.
An Open Letter of Apology and Explanation to Charlie, Our Dog, as to How in the Hell a Cat Came to Live Here
By: Tosha Woronov
First and foremost, I think you know, my sweet puppy, that I am an insistent, indignant, Dog Person. So I, too, am baffled by this. I am in fact, greatly allergic to cats. (Which doesn’t alone explain my lifelong aversion to them; I find them mysterious, aloof, creepy.) My blood tests from last year confirmed that my skin, my lungs, my sinuses cannot handle certain pollens, mold, dust, and every type of grass on this planet, but most of all, cats (a 4 out of 5 on the allergy scale). By contrast, you are hypoallergenic, if there is such a thing. I can and do happily bury my face into your non-shedding soft coat daily.
But still there is a cat here –a kitten, to be clear. And you have to admit (can you admit?) that he’s pretty damn cute. Have you ever seen a thing so small and yet so scrappy? Even you, at 9 weeks, with your giant head and paws and bravado, hid from the vacuum cleaner, trembled in the dark. This one, the runt, owned the house by Day Three, tried to eat from your breakfast bowl at the same time you did, and squared off against you, nose-to-nose, paw-to-paw, your 48 pounds to his 1.
Does it hurt when his crazy dagger-fangs sink playfully into your ankles? It hurts mine like hell, but they’re not adorned as yours are in that year-round, wooly sweater. (I shave.) You are so patient, so tolerant with him; it breaks my heart. I hope more than anything that his youth will preseve yours (somehow you, now at 52, are older than all of us); that you will chase each other through the house while we’re gone; that you’ll become, simply, the best of friends. We have five minutes of video to cherish of you, tail-wagging, and he, paw-swiping, that confirm forever what we already knew: that you are such a good sport.
Speaking of biting, thank you, thank you, for gnawing only on Dad’s cleat, and the corners of a few books, when you were young. Thank you for licking on, and not snapping at, the new baby when he came to share your home six years ago. Thank you for actually closing your eyes and waiting patiently, growl-free, while I struggled to release from your sensitive whiskers the sticky grasp of a visiting toddler’s fingers. Can you help teach the kitten some manners? Do you have an inside track at all? Perhaps his ancient bobcat genes are too prominent. (Last night Leo ran from his room into ours, slamming the door behind him, in order to take refuge from Tanner, who bit him on the face while he slept. Fuck! I thought. I hope we didn’t make a mistake.)
The things I love about this kitten are the same things that drive me nuts about him (he would make a good husband): He likes to crawl up on the desk and stare at (and follow, and swat at) the cursor as I type. I can’t see my writing, and lord knows I need no more distractions from it, but it’s adorable nonetheless. He insists on hiding under the sheets while I make the bed, which is impossibly cute and very annoying. It’s not easy to dig a clawing kitten out from under the elastic of a bundled-up fitted sheet. He can get into and up on anything. This terrifies me, as I scan the room for all the pretty things I’ve placed just so. But the fact that he can do it, swiftly, with no sound, well…you gotta give him props for that.
We got a cat because I believe very much in the importance of pets for a family. And I was feeling the need for another soul in this house. (Two hamsters, a fish, and a frog were just not cutting it.) And he was a Christmas present for Leo, a way to say to him, this thing is yours to love. We are a One-Everything family, as mandated, rightly so, by your dad. One child, one dog, (and, presumably, one wife). So another puppy was out of the question, and even I would have felt guilty, sharing my love with another of your kind. But today I worry the opposite: are you thinking, A cat? How could you do this to me?!
Charlie, nothing will ever come between you and our love for you. His nose alone could never compete –that tiny, brick-colored triangle –against your giant black donut of perfection. (He does have the sweetest chin though, all white and feathery. I suspect his chin will get a lot of attention.) You were the first love I found after meeting your dad. Everyone (and I mean everyone) adores you.
Please forgive us and keep up the good-sportsmanship, for you are undyingly loyal to your family, of which this cat is now (for better or worse) a part.
By: Tosha Woronov
Thanksgiving is upon us. I love it. A holiday centered around comfort food, and no gifts to buy save for a decent bottle of wine.
Thanksgiving is also a time for little kindergarteners all around the country to learn the meaning of gratitude, and also how to share with a pilgrim.
But I want to know who came up with the stellar idea to humanize the turkey. Tom Turkey and gobble gobble and a tiny black hat on a beautiful, fat, smiling turkey with rainbow-colored feathers and big happy eyes. Who taught children to lay their hand flat on paper, trace around it, add a wattle, color in the fingers, give it a big shit-eating grin? Voila! You made a turkey! Isn’t that cute? Who decided plush turkeys would be nice –scattered throughout the Thanksgiving books in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble? Let’s show how really f-ing cute turkeys can be! Here, kid, take this fluffy turkey home with you, christen it a silly, implausible name, sleep with it. In a few weeks, your dad will rip out his insides and roast him in the OVEN! Delicious!
Just before lights out tonight Leo asked what our plans were for Thanksgiving. (He’s like me; he needs to know what’s up.) I told him our plans to go to his cousin Zach’s and that his “Aunt” Julie, not Daddy, would make the turkey this year.
And then all hell broke loose.
We can’t eat the turkey!! (tears) No! I will NOT eat the turkey! (more tears) I don’t want him to die! (huge tears) He can’t DIE!!! (uncontrollable tears) YOU better not eat it either! (pissed-off tears)
Vegans, veggies, animal rights activists – yes, this is your moment to smirk. I get it. The moment is not lost on me. But my kid doesn’t eat much. He loves his animal proteins and sorry – if I could get him to eat seitan and black beans, I would. So this realization of his is unfortunate, or let’s just say, untimely.
He does not eat mashed potatoes. He only eats his green beans raw. He’d rather die than try stuffing. He does not understand at all how we can call pumpkin pie “dessert”. Yes, he’ll have to get over it and become a more adventurous eater. But not on Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday. I don’t want to deal with this now. I want him, dressed in his “handsome” clothes, to sit down and eat the turkey and the biscuits (I’ll sneak him a few raw carrots and green beans), and enjoy himself, so mama can enjoy herself and the wine she brought.
I vacillated about telling him, “you know, Peanut, bacon comes from pigs – cute fat pigs, and steak comes from cows, which we adore –adorable cows.” But then again, he knows this already. (In fact, he happily ate a turkey sandwich for lunch today.)
No, it’s the lethal (ha!) combination of learning – kindergarten-style – about Thanksgiving and the cute-ifying of that holiday’s emblematic dish that has caused this problem. We don’t dress up pigs or glue googly eyes onto geese before Christmas and we sure as hell don’t eat elves (I hope to fuck not!).
I did end up telling him, because I’m a horrible mother and it was late and the crying was going on too long and because I would never, ever actually kill a turkey myself (which he seemed to think I was intending to do): “The turkey’s already dead, babe.” Yep, lots and lots of dead turkeys in the grocery store. In all the grocery stores. In all the cities. All over the country. Dead turkeys everywhere.
I’m thinking about teaching him this “traditional” holiday song (??), which I found online. (I want to spend Thanksgiving with the crazy-happy family that belts this out each year.) I figure by singing this with him everyday for the next 3 weeks I can undo some of the damage done by his school and the damn retail industry. (Foster the kid’s teeny weeny wicked side.)
O turkey dear
O turkey dear
How lovely are thy feathers
O turkey dear
O turkey dear
There could be nothing better!
We celebrate Thanksgiving Day
By putting your carcass on display.
O turkey dear
O turkey dear
You thought we were friends who came to greet you
O turkey dear
O turkey dear
We gathered here to eat you!
(There’s more but it gets even weirder – too much so even for me.)
In closing, I have a big favor to ask:
Mr. President, I know you have way too much going on, and it really sucks having just lost control of the House and all, but would you mind pardoning two turkeys this year? We are no longer allowed to eat ours, anyway.
By: Tosha Woronov
My baby turns six years in about as many days. Time flies, as they say.
Six years ago to the day my step dad accompanied me to Rite Aid to pick up a bottle of cod liver oil, against urgent pleas from my mother and husband (oh, god, don’t do that). My step dad – a chemist – was a perfect partner in this crime of mine, psyched, I’m sure, to see if the old wives’ tale would work. I just wanted the baby out. I’d reached forty weeks but was also afraid it wouldn’t happen before my mom’s one-week allotted visit expired and she went back to Colorado. In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t work, unless your goal is to spend fifteen miserable hours in the bathroom. But still I kept that drug store trip close to my heart. At the check-out line my step dad chuckled, “my treat” and handed over the $1.97. I saved the receipt in my “pregnancy box”. Now, six years later, my step dad and I aren’t speaking and haven’t for close to seven months.
Six years ago it rained and rained and rained. It poured down on my husband and me as we gently maneuvered the newborn car seat, hefty with a sleeping baby, out of the car and inside, where my mom and step dad and sister greeted us. My mom had cleaned our condo during the three days we were in the hospital, cleaned it just the way I would want it done, better even – laundry folded and the fridge stocked with good food. I was a slob as a teenager and it drove her crazy, but I had adopted by osmosis her ability to make a home warm and cozy –sanitized, but also dotted with flower-filled vases and a couch pillow thrown just…so. “Clean, but lived-in” she used to say, or maybe said once and it just stuck with me. That day my husband and I returned home as three, and our place was perfect, and the rain was perfect, but it was also time for my parents and sister to head out. We had maybe fifteen minutes together with the new baby before they left and I remember standing at the door sobbing, afraid to turn around and start this new life as a mother, this new life that I thought I wanted. Did I mention that my step dad and I aren’t speaking? Well, nor with my mom. Funny or sadly or ironically enough, it’s a fight – a bad one – about the parenting of my son and the parenting of me and I see no way out. Time flies, indeed.
Six years ago the Boston Red Sox made a historic and valiant comeback against the New York Yankees to win the ALCS championship, then went on to compete in, and win, the 2004 World Series. This was important to me because it was important to my husband, not to mention a “nation” of suffering Red Sox fans (a curse, if there were one, had been broken). I watched each of the four games deep into the night with my baby alternately nursing and sleeping, grateful to have something bigger to focus on than this thing in my arms, a miracle outside of the one in our living room. Today my almost-six-year-old thinks he knows everything about his and his daddy’s favorite baseball team, but he’ll never really get those thirteen agonizing and thrilling days shared by just his dad and me. He was there, of course, that little baby, but not like he is now. Six years later, I understand that those days were the thin and evaporating membrane between the life we had before he was born and the life we are now.
In six years we’ve lived in three homes: a two-bedroom condominium and a 100 year-old Victorian and a normal house in a family neighborhood. From West Hollywood to suburbia to Siberiaburbia.
As a brand-new mother I struggled with getting the stroller down the steps of our building. It was a feat – an accomplishment –to get the baby strapped in and the dog leashed and to make our way across Sunset Boulevard to the Coffee Bean. In our city condo my baby learned to sleep well to the sounds of fire engines and helicopters, but still I cursed them to shut up! I just got him down! As a new mom I pored over sleep manuals, highlighting advice from the Baby Whisperer, jotting it down for my husband to study after work. I taught us all sign language: eat, drink, cheerios. I stored breast milk in the freezer, puréed summer squash, and cried a lot. I fought with my husband about swaddling and sleep training. Convinced I had it harder, I kept score. I made my way to mom and baby classes, sang lullabies at night, and worried about diaper rashes and growth percentages. Many nights I woke in a panic, looking for the baby under the covers, or on top of my dresser. He was always in his crib. I held my palm before his slightly open, warm and sleepy mouth to ensure he was alive. I slept on the floor in his room. I was lost and found and lost again. I barely remember that baby, but I know it was a lot of just him and me and I wish I knew then to appreciate it.
The next home happened when my son turned two. It was huge and we learned a completely opposite type of space management: making a cavernous home cozy. We bought more furniture. Concerned he wasn’t talking, I arranged for a state-funded speech professional to assess him. There was nothing to worry about. I visited and applied to preschools and learned the hard way to not ignore my gut. We did puzzles and counted to 100. Bolstered by my passion for plastic bins and hobby stores, I stocked for him an art center like no other. We glued googly eyes to pom-poms. We set free on to my aphid-infested plants 1000 ladybugs and I marveled that it worked; they controlled the pests. We had tea parties which bored me, I’m ashamed to admit (small talk never being my strong suit). We picked lemons and grapefruits – the bigger the better –confirming my assumption that the bigger, better ones hang from the highest branches. I developed an intense fear of black widow spiders. I wondered about a friendly ghost in the spare bedroom, and the whatever-it-was in the basement (Basement! In Los Angeles!). We played a lot of catch. He turned two, then three…four, and five. I planned and we hosted three Easter egg hunts, four birthday parties, one bridal shower, three Thanksgiving dinners, and two Christmas Eve cocktail parties. In that house, I felt the first pangs of my age, mildly panicked by the latter end of 30s. I came into my own as his mommy and we cemented a bond that saves me still today. I started writing.
Now we live further out where the schools are better, or so everyone says. My gut does not disagree. I worry less about how much he’s eating and more about him making friends. We keep track of the animals we’ve seen up here: coyotes, hawks, rabbits, lizards, an owl, a skunk, a tarantula. We greet the goats across the street (Hello, Oreo! Baaaa!). I sit with my husband on various bleachers and watch basketball and T-Ball games. We giggle and whisper and share proud looks and I enjoy knowing that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I pack lunches and snacks. I recycle. I fill hummingbird feeders and brew my own coffee. I am “Mrs. W” every Wednesday in Leo’s kindergarten and I know all of his classmates by name and temperament. I care about the funding of his school and how to raise money, more money. I clip box tops. We dole out allowance on Sundays and come up with special chores so he can earn more. I argue with my husband that because it’s his own money, the boy should be permitted to spend it however he chooses. I stopped keeping score. (I was coming up short.) We do homework and practice drawing faces and sometimes I worry that he’s being asked too often to think inside the box. My gut is confused. I argue with my son about brushing his teeth and using his manners and not leaving red Gatorade on the couch. I buy red Gatorade. I think a lot about motherhood and my own mother and my place on either side of it and I’m left with no answers, only his face, and that heart. It amazes me still that he once wasn’t and then he was and that he’s more beautiful than I could have ever conjured and yet still I had something to do with it, didn’t I? I think of that baby turning six next week and I want to SCREAM to STOP THE RIDE – for a second – I don’t want to get off – I just want a second, a moment, please?…please…to just…hold on…to time.
But it keeps flying by.
By: Tosha Woronov
Leo is on his second full day of kindergarten. He actually started two weeks ago, but to allow the kids some transition time, Days One through Six were partial days – an hour here, three hours there, two days off for the Jewish holiday.
Leo would like more transition time, thank you very much. Not at all ok with the new, regular, five-hour day, he tells me, “That’s too long to be away from you.” I remind him that preschool was much, much longer, and then greatly disappoint myself for missing the key difference, which he has to point out to me through tears: “I could go for 100 hours at preschool, because I had friends there.”
The aches and pains of his adjustments to preschool are distinct from those we have now. Back then it was about whether or not he could nap in a strange environment; Was his lion blankie allowed? How would he do without a pacifier? Can he make it to the bathroom before having an accident, and if not, how many extra pairs of pants and underwear should I pack?
But for kindergarten, he’s thrust into this place, expected to make friends. Make friends. I keep repeating that in my head, imagining having to go through it myself. Of course, the payoff is one of the sweeter things in life –a new friend and all its attendant joys– but the work involved, that first and second contact, is unbearable. At least, it is for me. And so it seems for Leo, because it did not help him to be reminded that all of the other children have to go through it, too. He can plainly see that some kids are just better at it than others. It comes easier for them. Plus, he has his own butterflies to settle. Like his dad (and quite unlike his mom), another person’s similar struggles don’t ease his own.
Yesterday I did something I promised myself I would not do. We live next door to his school, on a small hill overlooking the kindergarten play yard. Knowing it might hurt, but hoping for a happy surprise, I went against all my internal warnings and those of my friends who said “Don’t be tempted to watch him from up here. It will break your heart.”
“Break” is the wrong word.
My heart sank as I watched Leo move through the playground, completely alone, his round belly jutting out under his tight, white shirt. Walking around, looking for something to do, worse -someone to play with. It seemed all the kids were paired up or in groups except mine –my sweet, good-natured, funny boy. A month ago and all the days before it I could have, would have, intervened. It was acceptable back then to say to another mom and her child at the park, “Hello. This is Leo! What’s your name? Would you guys like to play in the sandbox together?” But from my painful vantage point I could do nothing but watch (Stop watching Tosha! Walk away! Go inside!), and cry, and try not to curse the hard-working, underpaid teachers monitoring recess who have a dozen things to handle other than a little boy with no one to play with.
I watched him circle around an area where six or seven kindergarteners played basketball, his favorite sport. He approached them–three separate times –each time being either ignored or (god, I hope not) admonished by the other boys. He would walk away and circle the playground again. I could not stand it. I stood near our fence, amidst the morning glories and the bees, my coffee cold and tears streaming down my face, praying to a god I never pray to, please, please, please, let him play ball with these other boys.
His bravery astounds. It does not come from me, or even his dad (but more so his dad). He stuck it out, grabbed a rebound as it rolled near, held on to the ball for just a beat, and then made a shot. He gave a little inner jump-cheer to himself. And then he did it again. And again. He stayed and played. I finally walked away to call my husband and tell him. To share a cry about this little boy who’s trying so, so hard.
After school he told me he made twenty shots at recess and played basketball with a boy named Gabriel.
Thank god for basketball and Gabriel.
By: Tosha Woronov
Leo’s first trophy.
This is big.
At last night’s team celebration dinner, Coach G dubbed Leo “Mr. Automatic.” (The kid doesn’t miss, you see.)
And so a nickname is born.
Carrying it upstairs on the way to bed he told me, “I have been wanting this my whole life.” (all 5 and ¾ years)
We each weighed in on how he could sleep with it, this fragile and pointy thing. I felt it would be totally fine if – for just this one night – the trophy stayed wrapped in his sweaty little arms. (I wanted the blog photo, and the moment.) Pete worried the kid would hurt an eye. Finally Leo decided that, because he might roll over onto it –break it — it should spend the night on his bedside table.
He would not have chosen so wisely the day before.
By: Tosha Woronov
I love my dog’s big black nose. It should be a refrigerator magnet.
I love when a day in August starts out cloudy. We can play outside then, until almost noon, when the marine layer burns off and we must retreat to air-conditioning.
I love San Francisco. I wish I’d found myself there in my early 20’s, before starting my real life.
I love reading a book, or a blog, when the writing is so good I almost hate the writer. I love later sharing that string of words with my husband.
I love waking at night, in the middle of a deep sleep, when my brain acknowledges to me: “ah, this is a good sleep.” And then I go back under.
I love when my son runs back to give me an extra kiss. In front of everyone.
I love when my husband tells me a story from his past that I hadn’t heard. We’ve known each other a long time, and there are still discoveries to be made.
I love when a stranger in a store or a nearby table tells me how beautiful my son is. People can be so kind.
I love when my husband insists that I have a margarita, and I obey. He knows what’s up.
I love animals, all of them. My day is made right by seeing a fat puppy at a sidewalk cafe, a bunny in our yard, elephant seals on the beach.
I love listening to my son count his piggy-bank money. I love that at 5, he is smart enough to count it all by himself, but because he is 5, he starts all over with each new penny found.
I love that Leo decided on his own to call us “mama” and “dada”. It evolved from “mommy” and “daddy” and sounds even sweeter.
I love the perfect breakfast spot. Like The Griddle in West Hollywood or Katy’s Place in Carmel-By-the-Sea.
I love hotels, as do my boys. No dishes to clean, no laundry to fold, only the requirement to watch my son jump on the bed.
I love the tuna melt at the Artisan Cheese Gallery in Studio City, which is Italian tuna, olive oil, artichokes, capers, gouda. Unexpected and unreal.
I love taking the time to think of things I love. It doesn’t happen often enough.
By: Tosha Woronov
I haven’t written in three weeks. Not writing is, for me, akin to not exercising, which I’m not doing either. I am guilty, and weak, too lazy to arrange my scattered thoughts in any succinct way (case in point). And, like avoiding the treadmill for too long, it’s almost impossible to get back on track.
In my defense, I’ve had a lot going on. We just moved. It sucked, as it does for anyone. I tend to make such things really hard, unable to find a safe place within myself. I’m uncomfortable all over and boxes are everywhere. A trip to my new grocery store feels like a visit to another country, like Canada. Depression grips for me at every turn, which means I must tread carefully. It’s like when I’m nauseated and to avoid barfing I keep my jaw clenched tight. I tiptoe around the issues that represent landmines, threatening to blow my quivering sanity to bits. The ex-landlord wants to keep too much of our deposit, the new sink is clogged with – what is that – raw meat? The couch won’t fit through the door. Our dog’s pee is burning the lush and pristine sod. That’s never happened before. It’s all too much. I cower. Shh, shh, don’t move, don’t open the mail, don’t open that box. My husband calls to me from upstairs – he’s reading his email – and all I can ask is, “please, is it more bad news?”
But as we unpack, evidence of our new home – our new life –appears, and I cling to it. I hang a bird feeder, which feels nice, but not until the first finch lands there do I relax a little. I make a space for Leo’s toothbrush in each of the 3 bathrooms, which makes him (surprisingly) happy. I ignore the fact that I can’t find my most important papers and instead plant and hang 3 tomato plants in topsy-turvy containers. I water them and breathe. Rather than rifle through another box marked “office” (my husband seems to have labeled all of the boxes this way, even ones that contain dishes, or his clothes), I walk next door to the elementary school and adjoining ball field where Pete and Leo are playing. I bring the dog, who has adjusted happily already, and sit in the grass of the outfield, marveling at the dusky sky and hawks flying overhead. I light candles. I put vases holding fresh-picked roses on the kitchen windowsill. These things make a difference. I make bruschetta for Pete and we open a bottle of wine. Leo and I walk Charlie around the neighborhood, counting bunnies. It helps to have the cable back on too, which I hate to admit, but the sound of Sports Center provides normalcy as we struggle with the screwdriver, argue a little with each other, and assemble bookshelves.
They are returning, thank god, those parts of me that are grounded and sane.
Our stuff is here, my boys are safe, we’re in the new house.
I’m just trying to find my way home.
By: Tosha Woronov
Leo is the Spidey in the middle, between two of his favorite cousins. We try to see them every Saturday night, but it really works out to once a month. The kids play; the grown-ups drink wine; we all eat pizza (except Leo. Leo hates pizza).
I love this picture because it looks like it was taken in 1972. I hope they’re still good friends when they’re 25, so they can laugh with each other about this.
By: Tosha Woronov
When Leo was born I called and asked my aunt, whose own son must have been 25 at the time, “when was the last time you held Josh in your arms?” The question surprised her, but she got why I was asking. It had to do with the “remember every moment” sentiment that had been thrown at me a bit too often in my early weeks of motherhood. So here I was, cradling the phone and this infant, trying to do just that. My aunt and I pondered: when will be the Last Time that I hold this child? Will he be 6, having fallen asleep in the car on a road trip?…or maybe 8, as I carry him off the baseball field because he’s (god forbid) hurt?…perhaps 15, heart-broken over a girl (will he let me hold him then?)…
My aunt brings it up sometimes, that question from five years ago. She wants to be sure I remember to register the “Last Time” moments. Maybe the Last Times of her great-nephew will jog her memory of her son’s, like a vicarious walk down memory lane.
I don’t remember the Last Time I nursed Leo, but I do remember the second day after. He was almost a year old and he just quit. He wouldn’t latch on. Not interested. Finished. The day after that, after 24 hours of fretting, of thinking he was sick, I realized that he must be done with nursing. I cried. It was over but I didn’t know it would be over. I didn’t see it coming, and so I didn’t know it would be the Last Time. I didn’t pay attention, the moment passed, and that made me sad.
I couldn’t remember the Last Time he picked a yellow dandelion, but do know he was 2, and then 3, and we were getting a little irritated that he had to pick EVERY dandelion at the park, all 158 of them. We admitted to each other late one night, “I’m getting a little tired of the dandelion thing.” “I know! I have 3 ziploc bags of rotting dandelions in my car!” And then Leo stopped. I don’t remember when. He just didn’t do it anymore. But then the other day he handed me a dandelion as I fumbled with my keys at our front door. “Here Mom, this is for you.” I smiled, because he is sweet and because it hadn’t yet been the Last Time. I didn’t miss it.
I don’t remember the Last Time he told me I was beautiful, but I do know that, for the entire fourth year of his life, he said it every single time he saw my face. I know that I never tired of hearing it. Now I find myself asking him if my dress looks ok. He responds with a numb nod, both eyes directed at a Laker game.
I sort of remember the Last Time we kept count of VW bug cars. I know we got up to the twelve thousands (new Beetles are worth 1 point; convertibles -2 points; “old-school” bugs -3; and the mint-condition, shiny, orange old-school convertible we see around town -100). Not too long ago a cherry-red old-school passed us, and Leo didn’t call it out, although I know he saw it. I stopped myself from yelling “look, old school!” because I realized right then that he was taking some sort of a stand – an “I’m-All-Grown-Up-and-I-Don’t-Think-It’s-Fun-to-Count-Bug-Cars-Anymore” stand.
I do remember the Last Time he kissed me. It was 6 hours ago, as I prepared to leave him at his cousin’s house for his first ever sleepover. Until this week, he wasn’t emotionally prepared to spend the night at a friend’s. His feelings on the issue were clear: “I am not ready yet. I will miss you too much at bedtime.” But apparently his concerns ceased by Tuesday when he announced the opposite: “I want to spend the night at Zach’s. I won’t be nervous at all.”
And so this afternoon, very much aware that I was in the midst of a Last Time, I kissed him goodbye. I did it again and again, and he pushed away from me, annoyed but laughing, “Mom stop! I kissed you already!” I walked back to my car alone, stopping at the curb to pluck a dandelion growing there.