“Love, you might want to get a picture of this. It could be the last time.” What is my six-foot-four husband feeling so sentimental about? I follow him into the kitchen to see our 2-year-old daughter sound asleep in her high chair.
On close inspection, I spy the speck of white yogurt hiding in her hair and the soggy crackers slowly absorbing strawberry juice on her tray. Stepping back though, I gaze at our beautiful fifth child, her head resting on her left shoulder and uncut blonde hair circling her face. When she’s asleep, she still looks more like a baby and less like a toddler.
I see and I know.
I see exactly what my husband wants me to see and I know his precise meaning. The bittersweetness of the moment fills me, and flashbacks of our older children dance in my head . . .
The one who fell asleep in his spaghetti.
The bowl worn like a hat as messy oatmeal spilled down the sides of his face.
All five shared the same first food—homemade applesauce.
Those questions of boundaries—what do we do when he throws his food on the floor? When she refuses to try it?
Our toddler whose blueberries made truck noises.
These and so many more memories catch me in the current of time while I beg time to stand still—just for a moment—just long enough for me to see so that I can remember.
I know the days were long, but where did they go?
And will this be the last time she falls asleep in her high chair? Is this the last time I gingerly lift her out and try to transfer her to her crib without waking her?
We never know the last time a child will climb in bed in the middle of the night because of a bad dream. No one warns us that this is the last time we’ll be called “Mommy” or “Mama” before our name changes to “Mom”.
Maybe we look forward to the last diaper change and the day we get to leave behind the diaper bag. We’re eager to reclaim the kitchen counter space after the bottles are put away, and we anticipate setting a vase full of flowers on the coffee table again without worrying that a child will break it.
But we usually don’t get to choose when the last will be and we often don’t see it coming. We only view it in hindsight.
When I was a girl, I’d pause, study a scene in front of me, and close my eyes. I’d try to imagine everything I’d just seen and create a mental picture.
Now, I grab my phone and take a picture. Actually, I take seven pictures—from all different angles—and I don’t plan to delete any of them. I don’t care if we’re being sentimental . . . because we don’t know. It could be the last time.
But I don’t just take pictures. I do the same thing I did as a girl, only I do it with words. I pause, close my eyes, and try to recreate these life moments unfolding in the lives of my family around me. I stop and write what I see because I want to remember.
And because I don’t trust my memory and I don’t know the future, I leave my words along with the photos, because I don’t know. It could be the last time.
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