Published on ScaryMommy.com (Club Mid) as Washing my Son’s Hair for the Last Time
With icecream, you have some warning when you are getting to the last bit. You can emotionally prepare bowl by bowl and when things are looking close to the end you can go out and get some more –or at the very least, not be startled when you run out. But endings of the “details” of life are so much more insidious and surprising. It’s hard to tell when it will be the last time you do something. I mean, everyday for 18 years, I was giving some little boy a bath. I was soaping up someone’s head, telling them to “close their eyes and tilt back” and then taking a random plastic cup, filling it up and rinsing off the bubbles. Everyday. Until I was not.
And the really strange thing was is that I didn’t notice the change of events right away. It was actually a couple weeks later or even a month or two, if I was to be totally honest. I was in the middle of making dinner, and, while stirring the onions, the random thought intruded-I can’t remember the last time I washed Charlie’s hair. My thoughts then escalated as I realized that you can be doing something every single day without notice, because it is so usual—but then one day, when you aren’t paying attention, the 20-year old routine dies because your kid started taking showers. Although you technically noticed that he was taking showers, you were not paying attention to the other thing—the fact that you are not giving him a bath.
So, in this example, I did what any normal mother would do. I immediately tracked down Charlie, who was busy doing something else and casually, as if this was the most routine question in the world, asked if he minded if I washed his hair that night. He said “sure,” as I thought to myself- thank you. Thank You. His simple acquiescence meant I was given one more chance –one more chance to pay attention. And I did. I soaped up his childhood head, scrubbed a little longer than it needed, made a little design with the soap through the layers of very thick hair, all while thinking about the thousands of baths I had given. They summarized themselves into this very last one that I would always remember. As I absorbed the warmth and the water, I also absorbed the ending.
How do you remember to pay attention, daily-To say to yourself, notice THIS moment. Everyday I read some quote on Facebook or in my ‘Book of Days’, or in some spam forwarded email that tells me to live in the moment. So I read the quote and think “yes” I am going to live in the moment. But then, there are all these daily routines that escape me, that numb me. And when they change—like when my oldest went to college and I only had to make three lunches instead of four—I was busy feeling freedom. Until the freedom actually came, and then I only felt nostalgia.
Heritage Day is coming up at school. I know this because I got one of those Evite reminders to sign up for something. I can donate water bottles, utensils, muffins, or I can go in and serve the heritage day foods and help with cleanup. A few years ago the Evite reminders filled my email. Annoyingly so. There were lots of times I either had to drop off the water or even delete the mail because I had so many things to do. But this is fifth grade. From experience, I know that the events will now be few and far between. As I checked off the box to help serve the food, I realize that volunteering at school is becoming a thing “I used to do.” I am glad for this opportunity to volunteer–but more importantly, I am glad for this chance to prepare for the ending. I don’t want to be surprised the next time I am cooking dinner.