Gabe has had a thing for shoes, pretty much from his womb-period.
Swear to Gawd, the kid was born knowing how to spell ‘Nike’… along with ‘cleat’, ‘sneaker’, ‘dress shoe’ (originally expressed as ‘shine-y shoe’), ‘flip-flop’, and ‘slipper’.
And, just to make it clear that he wasn’t actually born with brand names in mind, ‘Nike’ was his word for ‘shoe’ for a really long time (as in, “I need new Nikes” every time he wanted a new pair of shoes (which was often). And when he expressed this desire in public – like in the middle of, say, Target – I would get all kinds of looks from anyone within earshot. Because what two year old on the planet knows to ask for his shoes by brand? One with a sister who is six years older than he is, that’s who.)
Gabe loved shoes so much that he wanted choices, and a lot of them, each day when he woke up and it was time to get dressed.
I would go to T.J. Maxx and Marshalls for their clearance racks, amassing a small collection of shoes found for under five dollars. Gabe’s glee in seeing a bag from either store was something to behold. He was actually a bargain as a kid, because his shoes cost far less than other kids’ toys.
And he got new pairs a lot… because when you have to go from a baby size 3 to a big boy size 15 in only 14.3 years or so, your feet need new sizes about – I calculated it – every 37.5 seconds.
And with shoes, come socks.
And that is what I am looking at right now.
A pile of socks.
Brought down from a bedroom that is emptying of not only socks, but dress shirts and khakis and shorts and underwear and swimsuits and even the t shirt that says ‘no wood no refs’ that has a small stain on the side that I can never get out, but he doesn’t care about that and wears it anyway.
Because tomorrow, we leave to bring Gabe to college.
My last, my little surprise…
This summer began chock full of ‘wows’.
Number One Son Sam graduated from college, Self-Proclaimed Perfect Boy Gabe graduated from High School. Then First Born Mac and Half Kid Jack got engaged (I checked, it is totally legal to marry a Half Kid from the same family in the United States (there are a few caveats).
And the summer flew by with kids heading to jobs and events and Seattle.
But the last couple of weeks I have noticed something settling into place… kind of out in the open, and often… right there on my face. I can feel it.
The half smile.
You know the one.
Mine seems to settle in when I watch a beloved dog as he grows old, or a young adult kid ready to leave home. I’m not prone to compare dogs and kids very often… but somehow this half smile, often accompanied by that tingly feeling that makes my eyes a bit sweaty, shows up for both the old dog thing and the kid leaving home thing.
We watch them in quiet moments as the months become weeks and then days before they go… appreciating what we have had, what we’ve been through together.
We remember what they’ve given to our lives, what they’ve achieved and conquered on their own.
Gratitude mixes with Jackson Browne… and you don’t really mean it. Except you do.
Stay… just a little bit longer.
I am a big believer, mostly because I have lived it, that every chapter in my kids’ lives is better than the one before.
Stay this small, so I can always cradle your fuzzy little head and smell that baby smell.
Stay this way, believing that Daddy and I are magic, and can fix anything… from broken toys to broken hearts.
But if all of these things had happened… if pages never turned and new chapters never came… I wouldn’t have seen my kids learn how to grow and change and be in this world.
And I wouldn’t have learned the lessons that they taught me along the way.
That it is possible to be there to support a loved one struggle, knowing that fixing it for them will not help them become strong enough…
And that strong enough is important, because you will not always be there.
That you will not only survive “You just don’t understand!”, and “You have no idea!” and, the ultimate, “I hate you!” but you will see past those words, see them as a question, a test administered by your two year old, or eight year old, or teen (and, perhaps, beyond)…
‘Will you always be there, no matter what?’
Yes, I will be, whether you can see me or not, I will be here. I will cross miles, climb mountains, and cheat my own death to make sure that, when you need me, you will always feel me with you.
That it is possible to love in a way that would truly have me willing to step forward and give my own life for theirs.
No, that’s not co-dependence on steroids… it’s just being a mom.
And so, knowing that, feeling that… how… how do we shepherd them toward leaving?
Well, that answer is wrapped up in the same warm blanket as the love described above.
It’s not about us.
It’s about them.
And they are meant to fly… to go out into the world, and carry it forward on their own wings.
Some with a wide variety of socks (and shoes) to choose from.
Thanks for readin’.
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