The Last Night is a lot Like the First One

Not the worst thing

Not the worst thing


I have just gulped down an 8 oz bourbon and soda that was actually just bourbon. Don’t judge me. How else is one supposed to wash down the sleeve of Double Stuff Oreos they have scarfed down while pacing in the kitchen? The sugar and the bourbon have finally made their peace in my stomach and I can get on with my storytelling.

April 7, 2000

We opened the front door to our tiny apartment and stepped over the threshold triumphantly. We had accomplished something monumental, exhilarating and utterly terrifying.

We had just transported our newborn baby girl, aka The Baby, a full 11.3 miles from her place of birth, in the backseat of our 1995 Acura to our home…and she had survived.

I remember watching Chris gently unlatch the infant carrier and wiggle it out of the back of the two-door car thinking “God, that looks so hard…I hope he knows what he’s doing…What if he cracks her head on the door frame? What if he can’t get the seat out? What if she …..CRIES???” Those first moments of that first night in our home with Maisy are forever engraved in my memory. We had romaine lettuce with bottled Caesar dressing and watched Friends.

In the days and weeks and months that followed, Chris and I looked to each for reassurance as we agonized over EVERY little thing.

Wait, how do we know she ACTUALLY got any breast milk? She sure was on there a long time…but how do you ACTUALLY know?
Wait, was that her third wet diaper or fourth? Do we even count the one that was mostly mustard-poop? Because how can you really tell if it was wet…when it was so….just gross? Should we call the doctor and ask?…I mean it is 3 am but…”

We agonized about things like: bassinet or crib? onesie or sleeper? pick her up or let her cry?

On our fourth night at home as we tried to decide on a bathing mechanism, an external observer would have thought we were planning a midnight raid on a terrorist cell deep in the mountains of a third-world country. We huddled in the kitchen and whispered while The Baby snoozed a few feet away.

“Well, The Baby is too small for the tub, right?”
“I don’t know, I mean, we could just put a little water in it?”
“No,I KNOW! You get in the tub, I will hand The Baby to you and you can just hold her while I wash her. You will have to take your clothes off though …”
(You can guess whose plan THAT was.)

In the end we decided to skip the tub and bathe her in the bathroom sink. We tested the water 8 times on every bit of our own skin first.

“No…no..it should be the INSIDE of your wrist….”

“No, I thought they said the fat part of your palm..”

Every decision was agonizing. Every minute felt like an hour. Eighteen years seemed then like an eternity.

Then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

IMG_2184 2
18 years, four months, and 24 days later and we are about to step over the threshold again.

The beginning and the end of our time with Maisy at home are chock full of searingly clear memories. Yet, all the in-between years seem to blur together like a perfectly combined cookie dough dotted with bits of rich, unforgettable memories: the time she announced at 5 years-old that she had read all 7 books in the series and needed a few more; the first time she rode a bike without training wheels; the day she broke her leg…elbow…wrist; celebrating her 10th birthday with a surprise trip to see Taylor Swift in concert; her announcement that she would be attending an Ivy League (she was in 6th grade;) the day she started high school; got her driver’s license, got into that Ivy League College.

And now, here we are. At the end of her last night at home.

For dinner, we went to our favorite local Italian place and watched The Big Bang Theory. I will never forget the way her room looked (bare and filthy,) the way her bangs just skimmed the top of her eyebrows, the tiny, barely noticeable downward turn the edges of her eyes make. The almost imperceptible way she sort of LET me kiss her goodnight.

Most of all, I will not ever forget this feeling deep in my chest. Yes, there is the grief that comes with undeniable loss. But, there is also this triumphant sense that we have, again, accomplished something monumental and exhilarating, and utterly terrifying.

Tonight, we have no decisions to make. “The Baby” will sleep in her own bed in her own room for the last time. Then, the eating, drinking, bathing, learning, loving, feeling, living choices are all hers to make.

We now send wordless reassurances to each other: “She will be fine. She is a great girl. We have done good.’

PLEASE let this night end....

PLEASE let this night end….

Comments

  1. Christine, I love what you wrote. You and Chris have raised a beautiful, smart and talented young woman and Maisy will take all that she has learned from the both of you and will flourish in this next stage of her life. It is much harder on us (the parents) than it is on them going off to college. Best wishes to her and you can rest easy knowing that you have done your job!!

  2. Deb Kelly says:

    Wonderfully written. You have raised her and given her wings and she is a smart young woman who will figure things out. Best of luck to Maisy at Brown! She will flourish there, I have no doubt!

  3. Nora brennan says:

    I can’t. Ugh

  4. Julia Welbon says:

    Christine, YOU will be fine. This is the best possible type of pain. Maisy felt that Brown was her perfect fit, so it will be! And I bet she’ll keep you in her loop. She carries with her the closeness you have built day by day. It sustains her and is the foundation of her confidence. What an exciting time for her and your family.

  5. Lisa Sampson Morgan says:

    Yes, we are proud of them. Yes, it is time for them to soar. Yes, blah, blah blah. But I miss those evening conversations with her. I miss the late night Wegman’s runs. I miss the fashion shows. I miss her friends who I also love. I’m not worried about her. I trust her completely as I know you trust Maisy. Heck – both of them went to Europe pretty much on their own! They are super smart and will flourish. But while I am really happy and excited for her to pursue her dreams, I’m also in mourning. More than likely, she will never really live at home again. But unlike the mourning over a death, this mourning has to be kept hidden as to not overshadow our daughter’s joy and excitement about this new step. Our kids understand a little. Sure, they’ll miss us. But they don’t have a ticker tape of us running through their heads constantly. And let’s face it, at their age they are still pretty self-absorbed. They don’t think about us every 10 seconds. They won’t understand until they are in our position. It’s wonderful and we wouldn’t change a thing. But there is a huge hole in our lives now.

  6. Dana Winkey says:

    Who’s crying? I’m not crying. What a beautiful story! I think every parent can relate. And I’m sure your baby girl will be fine…..and so will the two of you. xoxo

    • Dana, I am, by nature and flaw, a CRIER. I cry when I am happy. I cry when I am sad, I cry when I am tired, hungry, stressed or PMSing. Yet with ALL those opportunities for crying in my life…NEVER EVER have I cried as much as I have this summer, this week, this past 24 hours. And, I had NO IDEA it would hit me like this….

  7. James J.Holstein,M.D. says:

    I admit that as each of our seven children left for college, I had mixed emotions. I missed them every day, and awaited each return home. Perhaps the best advice came from my wife,as soon often happens. She would state that we gave them “roots and wings”. Time to use the wings, the “roots” provide the nest.

  8. Great… I just launched my son back to college and was doing fine. Then I read your blog. Nails the experience exactly. But brings on the tears. My oldest son is fully launched and and working in NYC. He’s proof that they always come back though. In fact, just days after dropping Jason at University of Richmond, Tyler called to say he has work in the area in September and hoped he could stay with me for the week. duh!!!! Yay!!!! Maisy

    will come back even better! But you may need some bourbon in the meantime. xo

%d bloggers like this: