(Hi there. Let's just ignore for the time being that I haven't posted on here since...sometime last year.)
Mathilda, my big girl, my baby, gives the best hugs. Hugs that remind me we're all a piece of the same big pie, that we're more than these physical bodies that we think define us, that the Beatles had it right: all we need is love. Yes, hugs can do that; good hugs can. Mathilda loves to sit on my lap, to cuddle, to crawl into bed between Chris and me on lazy Saturday mornings. It's delicious and warm and the coziest thing pretty much ever.
As I sit in the preschool parking lot, waiting for the three hour school day to end, I'm thinking that the remainder of Mathilda's preschool career can be measured conveniently in weeks, or even days. Her time as a four-year old...the same. She will turn five the day before she becomes a preschool graduate. I'm thinking I'll only get to watch her run up the stone steps and proudly open the giant wooden door a handful of times before this era of her life, of my life, is over. Her days of picking apples from the mural in the preschool stairwell are coming to a close. I've been walking down these stairs for eight years, which means I've eaten a lot of imaginary apples.
Soon, too soon, Mathilda will be five, which as any parent who has been there knows, is a world away from four. Preschool graduation will come and go, we will have our long awaited summer, and then, as my friend Julie says, the "k word".
I am choking on the pain of letting go.
Trying not to, because this is just life. It's how things work. "Mine" is not truly a word that can be used to describe any of my children. They belong to themselves. Truth is, I am more theirs than they are mine. I merely have had the privilege of helping to usher them into this physical world, to guide and protect them and let them dance on my toes until they are ready to fly across the dance floor of life on their own.
This brings me back to my Mathilda (I can't help it, it feels like she is mine) and her soul-affirming hugs. Who am I without a child to hold? I'm not sure I know. I'm not sure I want to know. But I do know there will come a day when my youngest will no longer want to sit on my lap, when she will be too busy for long hugs and cuddles, and when she will realize she doesn't need me nearly as much as she thinks she does right now. When that happens, well it feels like my very essence of being will just seep right out of me. I know that's not true. Kids grow up, parents live to tell about it. I am a person who can be described in terms outside the realm of motherhood. I know that's true.
I will always be a mother, and it will always be my most cherished role. Yet, as impossible as it is to fathom from where I stand now, before my first child was born, I was a whole and complete person. And as my children continue to grow and to need me less and less with each passing year, I will continue to be a whole and complete person, and continue to do plenty of growing and changing of my own. I know all this is true.
"Can I run and hug you, mama?" Yes, baby girl, you can. For as long as you are willing, I will lift you up as you take a running dive into my arms, and swing you around, and inhale the intoxicating scent of your sweet head while I kiss your soft little cheeks. And I will not think about whether this will be the last time.