Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child.
They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that suppose to mean?
In my heart it don’t mean a thing.
~Toni Morrison, Beloved
I almost missed it because I was so self-absorbed.
The first Last.
Her first Last.
After early breakfast with a friend, I had a late morning-through-lunch meeting followed by my youngest’s soccer match after school; her cross-country meet was sandwiched snugly in between.
I had things to get done, after all. Lingering work for an upcoming event, heavy duty housework dictated by a visit from out-of-town friends, and outstanding writing commitments.
“She doesn’t care if I’m there…” I rationalized. Every meet for three years she had said the same thing–“Y’all don’t need to come.” Why not finally take her at her word?
“She doesn’t even care about the sport…” I contended. Seemingly half-hearted, her times hadn’t improved this year. Winning wasn’t the goal, finishing was.
This meet was an imposition, an inconvenience, an intrusion in my day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of her…very; she’s accomplishing what I’ve never attempted or believed I could do. But her ambivalence over time, and my busyness of the week, combined to justify my absence.
But then my husband had to go and ruin it.
“I’m taking off work to watch Rachel in the Regional meet,” he stated matter of factly. “I’ll just meet you there.”
A bit defensive I said, “Well, I wasn’t planning to go.”
“Okay, that’s fine [and he meant that, sincerely, no guilt attached], but I’m not going to miss the last chance I have to watch my daughter run.“
…the last chance
…to see my daughter
….r u n.
The words echoed in heart canyons.
“I hadn’t thought of it that way….” Did I speak that out loud or just think it? I can’t remember now. Regardless, begrudgingly, my plans had just changed.
Rushing from my meeting to the race, I arrived at its exact start time; no point was served in walking to the course beginning. Instead, camera in hand, I waited at the turn; she would pass nearby twice.
Ahead of the runners, I paused to breath in the beauty of the venue. Impossible blue skies melted into the lake, edges seasoned in orange, red and yellow. Thoughts trail, lost in Fall’s Show.
Her pace was quicker. I didn’t need a stop watch, I knew because of the nameless-familiar runners who bookended her front and back.
Mothers remember the most curious details, don’t we?
Focusing on her, I snapped the shutter a dozen times, probably more. Do you know how hard it is to simultaneously track with a moving object, cheer behind a camera’s lens and get a decent picture? The effort was well compensated: she smiled, amused.
I made my way to the finish line waiting and watching. Again, her familiar flash of red and stride matched my predictable snap and cheer.
I found my husband and together, with few words, we walked to where she’d emerge from the runner’s chute. I wondered (knew?) what he was thinking.
There wasn’t time to say much. I had 14 minutes to race across town yet again, to my youngest son’s school where he’d be waiting on his soccer uniform…worried, I’m sure, I wouldn’t make it on time (the match had been rescheduled an hour earlier in the day but we didn’t find out until just before the meet).
I kissed her on the cheek–something I had never done before after a run–impulsive, instinctive, even odd, yet right in that moment. She thanked me for coming, surprised I had made it.
Turning, I quickly walked back to my car when suddenly waves crashed–emotion unexpected and raw, and new thoughts not welcome at all–
I had just watched my daughter’s last high school cross-country meet.
The first of many lasts…
The first Last….
For the first time since school started, it sank in: this time next year, she won’t be living at home. Though having given this mental ascent, this time my heart felt it.
There’s a difference.
Eyes burning and throat stinging, I forced back tears that threatened to pour. Determined, I insisted today was not the day I’d fall apart!
So I didn’t.
Stars shimmer on obsidian sky and I see the moon wink; she’s sitting at the kitchen table, reading. I’ve come downstairs to do something that needs to be done (but in reality, doesn’t) when she looks at me. She smiles sideways, stands, and I step backwards; she doesn’t play fair and she’s moving in my direction.
“I wouldn’t mind being like you when I grow up,” and I start to say, “Don’t you dare…” but before I can finish “…make me cry” she’s inches away and slips her arms around me. She thanks me for coming to her meet and tells me she loves me. Acutely aware of ticking seconds, I hold on to
because soon enough it’ll be time to let go.