The Last Day of Being Little
You never really know when it’s the “last day.” I can think back to the last day of her bottle (which was surprisingly easy to give up) and the pacifier (which was not), but crawling? That’s more like a line in the sand. Or how about when she stopped eating mushy food from jars? That too, I can’t remember. Or, how about holding hands to cross the street? Or, sitting in the bathroom during bath time? Bedtime stories?
As a baby, she thought we were one and the same, but that’s long gone now. We can go for hours in the same house and barely talk to each other. We can go on car rides to the beach and her head is buried in an iPad watching a movie with her ears covered by headphones the size of my pillows. When exactly was the last day that I gave up burning CDs with playlists of the Wiggles and Nightmare Before Christmas and Cars and every song a princess has ever belted? Forget that burning—unless we’re talking about anything and everything I put in the oven—shows my age. How about when was the last day I stopped narrating car rides?
“LOOK! There’s an airplane up there.”
“Wave hello to your pre-school.”
When was the last day that we stopped waving to gigantic blow-up characters that decorated front lawns during the holidays? At what day and at what age is a child too old to refer to their toes as “piggies?” Maybe it’s when those piggies become larger than your own?
Now, toes are toes in our house.
This weekend we sat together in a movie theater. We braved the crowds and long lines and blustering wind during a holiday weekend to see The Great Gatsby. It was a first for her and for me: there wasn’t a cartoon or animated anything or superhero. After the movie ended, she had so many questions and I probed her into thinking about what the green light meant. What was the writing really trying to say? Because that light wasn’t just a light.
“It’s a book, you know. And one day you should think about reading it like Mom. The book is always better.”
“Just like Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are better,” she said.
“Yes,” I said, “exactly.”
Fitzgerald totally rolled over in that moment.
But the last day of Wimpy Kid references, when will that be? I couldn’t tell you. Just like I couldn’t tell you when Dora became a punch line rather than a beloved best friend. Some things – a lot of things – just go and float away without an invitation or celebration or fanfare. You can only see the last day looking back and it’s hazy at best.
I miss all of it and that’s the thing, I would have thrown a party for every single last day if I had known it was that: the last one.
And just like Gatsby, that’s my green light — knowing for every last there is a first.