When my kids were born, I was diligent (well mostly diligent, for the first three anyway) to fill out their baby books with all their firsts. Their first solid food, first word, first haircut, first step, and so on. But no one seems to care about the last times. There are no spots in the baby books for that. It’s hard to know when the last time comes, because you always assume there will be a next time. Until it’s been years and you realize there was never a next time.
When I was a kid, I remember watching game shows with my grandparents, making forts with furniture and blankets, climbing trees, playing hide and seek, swinging on the swing set in my back yard and at Karen’s, playing our tether ball (the only thing I was ever good at that involved a ball), digging in the dirt with my mom’s fancy engraved silver spoons, playing Atari (and then later Nintendo). I walked to the neighborhood pool where I would play pretend underwater tea parties, then eat cheese curls and lick clean my water-soaked and wrinkly fingers. I rode my banana-seat bike (The Praire Flower), played in the nearby creek, and caught fireflies (and took their lights out to decorate my arms, yuck). When I got older, around 13, I would sneak out of the house, out my bedroom window onto the porch roof, climb down a tree we aptly named the “bag-worm tree”, go pool hopping, egg houses, and hide from cops. Some “lasts” are a good thing.
But it all stopped one day. Not all in the same day, but over time, one-by-one, it ended. And I didn’t know to relish it then. Instead, I went on to the next thing, oblivious to the chapters of my young ending.
I think about my own kids’ “lasts”. The last time I pushed my youngest in the stroller. I have no idea when that was. I didn’t know that moment was the last time she’d need that, the last time I’d get to do that. The last time my oldest reached up to hold my hand. The last time Joseph needed his stuffed animal to go to sleep. The last time I tied their bib or filled their sippy cup. The last time I gave them each a bath. The last time I played tooth fairy. And the last time I didn’t play tooth fairy because I forgot. I didn’t know I wouldn’t get the chance to remember next time.
But time marches on. Children grow, and adults grow older. Change is the only thing that stays the same.