Let Me Hold You Longer
By Karen Kingsbury
Long ago you came to me,
a miracle of firsts:
First smiles and teeth and baby steps,
a sunbeam on the burst.
But one day you will move away
and leave to me your past,
And I will be left thinking of
a lifetime of your lasts . . .
The last time that I held a bottle
to your baby lips.
The last time that I lifted you
and held you on my hip.
The last night when you woke up crying,
needing to be walked,
When last you crawled up with your blanket
wanting to be rocked.
The last time when you ran to me,
still small enough to hold.
The last time that you said you’d marry
me when you grew old.
Precious, simple moments and
bright flashes from your past –
Would I have held on longer if
I’d known they were your last?
Our last adventure to the park,
your final midday nap,
The last time when you wore your favorite
faded baseball cap.
Your last few hours of kindergarten,
those last days of first grade.
Your last at bat in Little League,
last colored picture made.
I never said good-bye to all
your yesterdays long passed.
So what about tomorrow –
will I recognize your lasts?
The last time that you catch a frog
in that old backyard pond.
The last time that you run barefoot
across our fresh-cut lawn.
Silly, scattered images
will represent your past.
I keep on taking pictures,
never quite sure of your lasts . . .
The last time that I comb your hair
or stop a pillow fight.
The last time that I pray with you
and tuck you in at night.
The last time when we cuddle
with a book, just me and you.
The last time you jump in our bed
and sleep between us two.
The last piano lesson,
last vacation to the lake.
Your last few weeks of middle school
last soccer goal you make.
I look ahead and dream of days
that haven’t come to pass.
But as I do, I sometimes miss
today’s sweet, precious lasts . . .
The last time that I help you with
a math or spelling test.
The last time when I shout that yes,
your room is still a mess.
The last time that you need me for
a ride from here to there.
The last time that you spend the night
with your old tattered bear.
My life keeps moving faster,
stealing precious days that pass.
I want to hold on longer –
want to recognize your lasts . . .
The last time that you need my help
with details of a dance.
The last time that you ask me for
advice about romance.
The last time that you talk to me
about your hopes and dreams.
The last time that you wear a jersey
for your high school team.
I’ve watched you grow and barely noticed
seasons as they pass.
If I could freeze the hands of time,
I’d hold on to your lasts.
For come some bright fall morning,
you’ll be going far away.
College life will beckon
in a brilliant sort of way.
One last hug, one last good-bye,
one quick and hurried kiss.
One last time to understand
just how much you’ll be missed.
I’ll watch you leave and think how fast
our time together passed.
Let me hold on longer, God, to every precious last.
He grins slightly as I hold him to my chest. He twirls my hair in his chubby one-year-old fingers, and I whisper to him, “Slow down… take your time… You’re amazing me… and devastating me.” He smiles big and shakes his head. “Uh uh”, he says – his new favorite reply to everything. He curls up in my arms… he’s my perfect puzzle piece fit.
There is something in me so unexpected… a longing I thought I had conquered. To grow another. To nurse another. To bury my nose in that top-of-head infant smell. To watch yet another squiggly worm become an individual.
This unexpected longing is at war. It battles the woman in me who was lost… the one who wasn’t struggling to keep up with laundry… the one who felt vibrant and alive.
There is room in my heart for another…
but not in my life.
Another round of colic would kill me.
The drowning sensation of the first few months with a newborn… two little ones already to care for…
A husband who works full time, is getting another degree part-time, and who teaches the other part-time…
No family, no grandparents nearby, no support system…
the time, the finances, the room, the logistics, the energy, my dead career.
We’ve reached the point…
I’ve reached the point…
where we are done.
We are full.
So I whisper to the one that still fits in my arms. I inhale him longer and longer each day…
and I wonder…
If only I were stronger
If only we were richer
If only I didn’t want a life of my own
If only I weren’t so selfish
I wonder these things as I put the booties in the box…
the box with the other tiny things…
the box that won’t be dug through again for re-use…
the box that will soon go out the door…
the box that with it’s tape will close this chapter of motherhood.
I’m already missing them, but I’m done with missing me…
and I’m sad…
and I’m hopeful…
and I’m settled…
that with a heart both heavy and light…
I’ve finally decided
where the booties must go.