Christmas Memories of a Middle-Aged Mom
The Day After Christmas: 2016
Kids: Ages 23 and 18
I stare at the dining room table, at the detritus of the night before which was Christmas 2016.
An open Boggle board game, its lid askew, the tiny hourglass long since expired. Empty coke cans, empty cracker wrappers, mismatched notepads, pens, pencils. Inexplicable books and remote controls.
I pass the table and hear the ghosts, the small giggles, the yells, the loud guffaws, as if on a different plane.
But I am not really recalling last night.
I am recalling, aching even, for the times when last night was not a special occasion, when last night was not something planned or orchestrated and pleaded and bargained for in order to get my two adult birds back home to the nest for a visit.
I pine for the times when I woke up and sighed, distraught at the morning of cleaning ahead of me and went about my work, never giving a second through to the fact that these occasions would grow further and further between. I even miss stepping on Legos.
But for today, and today alone, I wake up and breathe in the smell of my children at home. All parts of my whole complete.
My ex-husband and I created them, raised them together for 18 years, taught them a secret language that only we four will know, and then released them into the world, not realizing that once they left, we would forever feel a part was missing. As they were grew up, talking to my kids in this cryptic language of music lyrics and movie quotes that we all memorized, I never imagined that eventually I would be left alone, the sole spokesman of a dead language. This language surfaces two to three times per year when we are together. How long until it fades into oblivion? The laughter forgotten; the love forgotten, replaced by vague, “I’m fine.”
Two to three times per year the planets align and they both come home. No sound can describe it. No film can capture it. It’s the sound, smell, feel of parts coming together again and forming a whole, a healing of a fracture I occasionally am able to forget exists.
If you’re a young mom, drowning in laundry and stepping on Legos, remember that this too will one day stop. Along with it will stop the holding hands at road crossings. Along with it will stop your child wanting to stay up late with you more than any other person in the world. Video game tournaments with the guys will replace family Scrabble and Bobble nights.
I know you’ve heard the advice before: hold on now because they let go so quickly. I’d push even a little farther, appreciate those messes just a little longer. They are the sign of a joyful house.
Leave the games out a little longer; they’re a reminder that family is fun.
Except maybe the Legos. They’re parental kryptonite and much in need of destruction.
Jennifer Gregory is a former teacher and school librarian who lives in rural Texas. She’s the mother to two adult children and the grandmother to one perfect grandson. She shares her home with one needy Dogue de Bordeaux.