She was hoping to find time to walk to the dollar store for a replacement pair of fake eyelashes, as her current ones were getting a bit “gooey.” She had worn them to play practice, to the gaming store, to the neighborhood park, and even to the horse barn for her riding lessons. Now that the layers of glue were nearly as thick as the lashes themselves, it was time to invest in a new pair, which would be the perfect finishing touch for her dance recital, for her first solo. She had told me days earlier that she was ready to quit dance lessons.
The door opened and we filed in, making our way to the metal folding chairs neatly lined in three rows. I preferred to sit toward the back, in the last row, up on the riser and near the door. It was stifling in the upstairs studio, but through the open balcony door, a welcome spring breeze caught the new garden blooms and diluted the aroma of worn pointe shoes and cheap perfume. I had come here to watch dozens of dance recitals over the last decade, and as the lights dimmed, I was keenly aware that this might be my daughter’s last recital.
She had a few minutes of fame, and she was strong and beautiful. I do not remember the music, but the song will play on in my head. She is not a little girl anymore. And I did not even notice her eyelashes.
The bat bag was hanging In the farthest corner of the basement, on the sturdy hook where it had been for the last three years, and where it was nearly forgotten, until the dawn of Aaron’s first t-ball practice. I couldn’t remember if the youngest players needed equipment, but I am always more comfortable when I am prepared. I was not ready, though, for what I found in the bag. That last game had given me reason to believe that I would be watching my boy on the mound well into his high school years. Little did I know that music, theater, and the social obligations of high school would be more important to Gabriel than my beloved game. They would make him happier, as happy as playing baseball once did. And little did I know that when the last out had been recorded and he zipped the bat bag, my lefty pitcher was closing this era of his childhood.
The dust rose to greet me as I dug through the enormous bag, which would be a bit overpowering for our tiny Aaron. There they were, all lefties: the catcher’s mitt, the first-baseman’s glove, and the fielder’s glove, all from days beyond, all beckoning to once again be part of summer’s game. The smell of leather was the same, and I thought of Gabriel as he skipped off the mound with his constant presence of joy, no matter if he had struck out the side or given up five runs. His last game had been a stellar performance in a game that mattered none. But really it did, because they all do. Aaron, though, throws with his right hand. I took the bag but put the gloves on the shelf with the abandoned ice skates and deflated air mattresses.
I was a helper at the “chalk and bikes” station for field day at the school last week. Aaron’s class was the first at my station. One small boy struggled to keep up with the pedals on his sturdy steel tricycle. He pulled up next to me, planted his feet on the ground below, and peered upward. Every word came guarded, with a mountain of effort. “I like…I think…I…you look…pretty.” His smile was enough to make me know that he was more than just a day brightener. He, who had likely overcome more challenges and obstacles in his first four years of life than I had in my nearly half century, had come to deliver a message. I knew my tears were lined up, waiting to fall. There could be no crying for this preschool helper mom, though I would have certainly been met with a compassionate audience. I looked down at my pink shirt, at the spatter of bleach stains that had begun to wear into holes. The shorts I wore were my favorites, secondhand and frayed. I knew that even just a few years from now, my little friend would not tell me what he had said before. The years would mark him, and they would take away the breathtaking beauty of his innocence that, on that day, for me, had been akin to a delivery of fresh roses.
My children are growing up. Some are no longer children at all. Some I have held as infants, while others came to me at a much older age. Still I am their mama, and they will always be my children. I watched Sam drive off to the city yesterday afternoon, after one last trip to Ollie’s for frozen custard. He had late word of an internship and, though he knows not where he will live or what his position will be, he is brave and bold, and ready to open what the world has given. My new son Augustine, my adult son, will soon leave us to travel across the ocean to follow his true calling. Their childhood games, their artistic passions, their youthful spirits, and even the challenges that they have faced, have all given meaning to who they are becoming as men and women. If my daughter has danced her last dance, and if my boy has pitched his last fastball, that must mean that they are ready, even if I am not, for what awaits.
I will pine for the innocent child that you once were, but I will celebrate who you have become, all on your own. And when your journey brings you back home to me, I will be there, ready to embrace all that is you, fake eyelashes included.