The speeding bullet train called time has stopped me in my tracks today as I wipe tears, giggle, and simmer in nostalgia. This morning, I took the LAST first day of school pictures. Never again will I take a picture of a boy of mine starting his first day of school. My baby is beginning his senior year, and wow, senior year is tough on a mama’s heart.
This “boy” of mine, our caboose, blasted into our lives over eighteen years ago. He was a tiny tornado with bright eyes, looking for mischief. Once he was mobile, his three older brothers learned that no LEGO creation, no game left out until later, no crayons or pencils were safe. Everything was fair game. He often tried to escape from the house to “break into” the neighbors, opening their doors and running right through. I once caught him chewing through a sealed block of cheese. Another time, a weeks-old, hard-as-a-rock gingerbread house. Climbing was a favorite past-time as he was an expert cabinet scaler. We had to hide bungee cords after catching him standing on our Golden Retriever, trying to connect a bungee from her collar to the ceiling fan. Micah enjoyed taking apart machinery, beds, computers, really anything that was put together.
When he was quiet, there was trouble. And when he wasn’t quiet? This kid loved hearing his own voice. The louder, the more delight. He would squeal, appreciating the echo when we were in large stores. My boy found fun in yelling his order (with a speech impediment) at food servers which made dining out a joy.
Discipline? He didn’t care about any stinkin’ discipline! My husband often arrived home from work to find me in tears, sometimes in the fetal position. I did not think I would survive this child. We worried about Micah’s future; and felt the odds were strong that a someday criminal was inhabiting this little body. His brother, Noah, tried to comfort us all when he said, “Don’t worry, most criminals are quiet.”
He could be deeply charming, especially to strangers. People at sporting events were his favorite targets. He would sidle up to someone enjoying a snack when my back was turned (or God-forbid, watching a brother play in his game) and charm them out of their licorice or hot dog or half-eaten anything. It was impressive. Sometimes if their back was turned, he would steal their half-eaten anything.
Despite the tempest, I saw my Micah’s sweetness in the rare moments of still waters (not just when a low-grade fever was involved). The tender soul who loved to help, please, and cuddle. My baby would always be just that, my baby. My last. So much of parenting is capturing the firsts: the first smile, first steps, the first day of school, the first dance… but with this last boy, I have intentionally tried to capture the lasts. These lasts are difficult to catch, so easy to miss. Did I recognize at the moment that it would be the last time he took a bed apart or yelled at a waiter? No. But more so, did I sense the last time I rocked or held him on my lap that this was it? His last time to wear his favorite dark blue shirt with a race car on the front. His last time to build a hot wheel track. Or when he presented me with the final crayon masterpiece to hang on our fridge. Thousands of little-boy moments that all come to an end.
Around age twelve, the mellowing began, and we saw the lasts of the wild child as he grew up into someone we never imagined he’d be, yet prayed he would. This former tornado is an amazing young man who talks at a delightful decibel level. He has the heart of a servant and is a friend to all. Micah is a loving, devoted son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend. His eyes still shine with possibility, personality, and creativity, but with no destruction in his path.
Would I go back to those tornado days with my little man? You know, I think I would, just for a bit. I would be hyper-aware of catching the lasts (the good and the bad) and putting them in a bottle to freeze them in time. To hear that loud, raspy voice command a room one last time. To look into those young, bright hazel eyes, eager to take on the day. I’d hold him on my hip one final time for a walk in the park, following his brothers.
So, here we sit, staring into senior year. A year so full of lasts, it breaks my heart in two. I will soak in the last time Micah wears his school’s baseball jersey, the final evenings with his guy gang here for corn hole and fire pit, and the ending of our intimate talks about his hopes and dreams. Every last that I can grab, even when I ask him to clean his room and watch him roll his eyes and turn his back. Or the last time he “forgets” to pick up after the dogs. I will miss it all.
A childhood coming to an end and a grateful mother holding her baby as close as he’ll let her.
Thank you, Lord, for this last son of mine and for all the last moments behind and ahead.