WHEN DID SHE REALLY GROW UP?

WHEN DID SHE REALLY GROW UP?

From A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

When Did She Really Grow Up?

Every night after I tucked her into bed, I sang to her, a silly song, a made-up song, our song. “Stay little, stay little, little little stay; little stay little stay little.”

She would giggle and I would smile. The next morning I would say: “Look at you. You grew. The song didn’t work.”

I sang that song for years, and every time I finished, she crossed her heart and promised she wouldn’t grow any more.

Then one night, I stopped singing it. Who knows why. Maybe her door was closed. Maybe she was studying. Maybe shewas on the phone talking to someone.Ormaybe I realized it was time to give her permission to grow.

It seems to me now that our song must have had some magic because all the nights I sang it, she remained a baby. . . four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. They felt the same. They even looked the same. She got taller and her feet got bigger and some teeth fell out and new ones grew in, but she still had to be reminded to brush them and her hair and to take a shower every now and then.

She played with dolls and Play-Doh. Though Candy Land was abandoned for Monopoly and Clue, across a table, there she still was. For years, she was like those wooden dolls that nest one inside the other, identical in everything but size.

Or at least that’s how I saw her. She roller-skated and ice-skated and did cartwheels in shopping malls and blew bubbles and drew pictures, which we hung on the refrigerator. She devoured Yodels and slushes and woke early on Sunday mornings to watch Davey and Goliath.

She never slept through the night, not at ten months, not at ten years. When she was small, she’d wake and cry and I’d take her into bed with me. When she got bigger, she’d wake and make her way down the hall, and in the morning, I would find her lying beside me.

She used to put notes under my pillow before she went to bed. I used to put notes in her bologna sandwiches before she went to school. She used to wait by the phone when I was away. I used to wait at the bus stop for her to come home.

The song, the notes, the waking up to find her next to me, the waiting at the bus stop—all these things ended a long time ago. Upstairs now is a young woman, a grownup. She has been grown up for a while. Everyone else has seen this—everyone but me.

I look at her today, one week before she graduates from high school, and I am proud of her, proud of the person she has become. But I’m sad, too—not for her, but for me. There has been a child in this house for twenty-five years. First one grew up, then the other, but there was always this one . . . the baby.

Now the baby is grown. And despite what people tell me—you don’t lose them, they go away but they come home again, you’ll like the quiet when she’s gone, the next part of life is the best—I know that what lies ahead won’t be like what was.

I loved what was. I loved it when she toddled into my office and set up her toy typewriter next to mine. I loved watching her run down the hall at nursery school straight into my arms, after a separation of just two-and-a-half hours. I loved taking her to buy stickers and for walks and to movies. I loved driving her to gymnastics and listening to her friends. I loved being the one she raced to when she was happy or frightened or sad. I loved being the center of her world.

“Mommy, come play with me.”

“Mommy, I’m home.”

“Mommy, I love you the bestest and the widest.”

What replaces these things?

“Want to see my cap and gown?” she says now, peeking into my office. She holds it up. She smiles. She’s happy. I’m happy for her. She kisses me on the cheek and says, “I love you, Mom.” And then she walks upstairs.

I sit at my desk and though my heart hurts, I smile. I think what a privilege motherhood is, and how very lucky I am.

Beverly Beckham

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