There are the lasts we know about, and there are the lasts we don’t know about until we look back and realize that it was the last.
The twins are likely my first and last kids. I use the term “likely” because it is too hard for me to say it definitively. So I don’t. I leave the door open to the possibility that another child will make their way into our family.
I don’t know when I will stop doing that. When I reach a certain age? I don’t know. I think I will always be able to convince myself that there is a chance that I will raise another child; even after my own children have children or I am clearly moving into the denouement of my life.
I sometimes picture myself in the nursing home, a spray of white hair against my pillow, still saying, “The twins are likely my last kids, but you never know.”
I didn’t know that the twins’ last birthday party would be their last birthday party. In fact, their last party was such a success that as we drove home, I said that I would do the same thing next year.
But they dragged their heels on whether they wanted a big party, and after that ambivalence was conveyed, I didn’t really feel like spending the time or money on a birthday party. A small activity with a friend, sure. But managing 18 kids and running them through games if the twins weren’t wholly into it, no, thank you. They agreed that small was better; that they’d rather do an activity than have a big to-do.
As I did yoga the next morning after the decision, I was flooded with grief. That was the last party! And I didn’t realize it would be the last party when it happened. I didn’t take the right mental snapshots because I didn’t know I would never see this childhood ritual again. This childhood ritual that I didn’t even like! That filled me with dread every year! What the hell was wrong with me? Any sane person would be happy to be rid of it.
What did I expect? Of course the game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey had to end some time. So I pushed myself into downward facing dog and told myself to get a grip.
There are obviously lasts that I don’t really miss. I don’t miss the last diaper. I don’t miss crawling. I don’t miss having to hold them in the pool. I don’t miss teaching them not to eat sand.
But there are the lasts that still gut me when I think about them: The last bottle. The last lift out of the crib. The last warm cuddle when they woke up from a nap. The last day of preschool. The last day of Kindergarten. Every last day from every grade.
We are almost at the end of elementary school, and I think about this last every day while I wait in the carpool line. It is partly fear of the unknown; of leaving the coziness of elementary school and entering the more self-sufficient middle school years.
But it is also mourning the lastness. That I won’t get to do this again.
It goes so fast.