Many years ago, as in about 45 years ago, my Mothah gave my father a Valentine. It was a pair of red, nylon boxer shorts. It was a joke. He never even had them on his body-not even once-because I, the one year old, snagged them and held on to them, well, for the better part of the next 45 years! I liked the way the nylon felt on my face when it got cold. If I set Britch (as in short for britches) to the side in my bed, I could grab him a few minutes later, and he felt so good to hold on to! Unfortunately, Britch’s friend, Nightie, did not make it. Nightie was one of Mothah’s hot pink, nylon nightgown’s that I also commandeered and took for my own. Sometimes, I would actually wear Britch and just carry Nightie around. Nightie disintegrated years and years ago-from so much love. I think she must have been made from nylon not as durable as Britch…because Britch lives! The other night, The Baby got into my bed because his Daddy was at a meeting. He had his Bunny and Penguin with him, and those are their names: Bunny and Penguin. They are (as if you wondered) a Bunny and a Penguin. Why complicate things? I think The Baby is very practical. Mini Me’s first teddy bear from Build-A-Bear was named Jim. Try to explain that one. Any way, we were chatting before going to sleep and I told The Baby all about Britch and Nightie. He stared at me with his eyes wide. You mean you actually slept with your father’s, um, I mean Poppy’s, underwear??? The Baby said to me. I chuckled. If you put it that way, I suppose it does sound a little…well….let’s just say strange and leave it at that. YES! I told him, and guess what? I still have him! The Baby’s eyes got wider as I jumped out of the bed. I only had to look in 3 drawers before I found Britch. See, I always know where Britch is. Just like The Middle Child always knows where Bippo is. Just like The Baby always knows where Bunny and Penguin are! I held him up for The Baby to look at. He was mystified. How, in God’s name, could his mother still have her security blanket? And furthermore, why in the hell was it a pair of nylon boxer shorts that are now unrecognizable as such? In fact, the only evidence at all that Britch was, at one time, britches of any sort, is the tag that says “Size 32”. I showed The Baby Britch’s paint stain. I got Britch in some wet, white paint at some point. It’s still there. Anyway, we finally went to sleep. The next day, I got up and made up the bed. That night, we got to go to see the Atlanta Braves play at their new stadium. We got home at midnight. I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, when I heard JC (who never turns down our bed) yell out: OH MY GOD! Is that BRITCH? I spit on the mirror-from laughing. I walked into our room and he was looking at me, eyebrows raised. YES, HELL, IT IS BRITCH! I said, WHAT OF IT? I snapped a quick pic of Britch in our bed. He was still looking at me. That is seriously fucked up, he said. It is not! I said, and explained the whole thing. Then, not really caring what he thought about it, I got into the bed and turned out my light. Whatever, I said, and I went to sleep with Britch in my clutches.
When someone younger than I am asks me what it is like to be a parent, my stock answer is “it hurts worse than anything I have ever done before”. I am talking about watching the milestones pass away, but I am also talking about the stuff nobody actually prepared me for. The stuff that feels like I literally have a dagger stuck into my heart and someone is standing there, twisting it around so that I feel the most pain I have ever felt-but it is not an evil pain. It’s a pain of love that is so very deep that even I, myself, would never have believed it possible for me to love another human being so much. It’s the watching my kid put her all into running for Student Council President in 5th grade, only to be beaten by someone who was ‘popular’ simply because it was, after all, just a popularity contest, and picking up the sobbing, heartbroken pieces afterward…It’s watching a kid go through that awful awkward phase-and wishing the phase would pass at a much faster pace…It’s knowing that my kid is having a hard time, socially, at school, and not being able to do a single thing about it…It’s about hearing my kid play guitar and realizing that I am responsible for that awesome talent….It’s about hearing my kid sing and getting chill bumps….It’s about wanting my kid to win, well, at everything, but knowing they cannot and, more importantly, should not. It’s about trying to prepare my kid for college, and knowing that they are going to eventually end up somewhere they shouldn’t be, drunk. It’s about taking my kid to college for the first time, and crying my eyes out as I drive out of town–audibly sobbing so loudly that it frightens my other children and they don’t know what to do….It’s about walking in that door after dropping my firstborn off at college, and knowing that he is gone…pretty much for good, and going into his room for a good cry and sleeping with one of his blanket’s for about 8 months… It’s about taking my firstborn to college for the second time…and setting him up in a house instead of the dorm. God! I had forgotten what it was like to set up housekeeping from scratch (not that I’ve ever had it so rough-thanks to Mothah), but I will say one thing: Thank GOD for grandparents! Mini Me did not possess a single fork to his name! I will also give great props to Amazon Prime Now. I couldn’t have done it without them. I did have to laugh when one of Mini Me’s friends said she could not believe that she was ‘experiencing this’, meaning watching me order shit on my phone and have it arrive at the house in an hour! I did not feel so very old. I felt so motherly, wiping out the kitchen cabinets and mopping the floors. I wanted to do for him what my mother had done for me-many times-and I did it. When we drove away that time, another piece of my heart stayed in Nashville…again. It’s about worrying about what my kid is actually doing at said off-campus housing! Oh MY God! Is he going to class? He better be! I am not paying for him just to live in Nashville! Oh MY God! Has he gotten someone to buy him beer? Of course he has. Oh MY God! Is he keeping his house as clean as it was when I left him there? Of course not. Oh MY God! Is he sleeping? Of course not. It’s about knowing he is probably doing some of the same things you were at that age, and knowing that like your mother, you can’t do a damn thing about it except hope that he is smarter than you were. While you have one already out of the nest, chances are, there may be others at home….This is when it’s about wishing my kid would come out of her room…It’s also about being so proud of my kid’s report card-wishing I had been so dedicated….It’s about watching my kid at his first piano recital-in his J. Crew Factory suit, looking like the bomb-diggity and acing his piece….It’s also about watching the Middle Child and The Baby hurt each other’s feelings…It’s about going out to the pool to relax and knowing that you will, indeed, have to get in the icy cold water and play with The Baby…It’s about watching The Baby beg The Middle Child to get in and play with us, and watching her refuse. I mouthed to her, “Pretty soon he won’t care”…. but I don’t think she got it. I think she thought I meant he would forget about it. I meant that in a few years, he won’t give a shit what she is doing. I said to The Baby, pretty soon, you won’t want to be out here with me! He said, I will always want to be out here with you, Mom. I had to put my sunglasses on then–so he wouldn’t see me cry. I know that it’s totally normal and natural for him to grow out of me….And I thought about Mini Me. He has been gone 2 weeks and I am starting to miss him. Have I failed him? Did I get off the float and play “Bolley Ball” with him? I hope that I did. It’s about watching my kids on stage–performing together–and knowing that they are, without a doubt: The. Most. Important. Accomplishments. Of. My. Life. I can also say that if I had known how much being a parent would hurt, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. There are some things that life does not prepare anyone for–for just reason.