I love when conversation goes beyond the shallow, surface-y stuff, when it delves into deeper more meaningful subjects, beyond the weather into what moves you and makes you think. It happens so very rarely. People are afraid to ask deeper questions, to really know another person on a level beyond the one they present to the general public.That's why I love my friend, Mary McCall (Look! You made the blog!). She's only 17, but she isn't the least bit afraid to ask those deeper questions.
"What do you love about your husband now?" We had been talking about relationships and what "love" really is, and how people can stay married. I had mentioned how different my relationship with my husband was compared to when we started dating way back in the stone ages.
There are many reasons I love my husband, even after almost 22 years of marriage. However, the one that stands out the most is our family.
Together we have created this wonderful, beautiful life together. It is a home and a family that, when I stop and think about it, blows my mind. We are tight knit and easy-going, living a life full of running inside jokes, supportive and protective of one another to a degree I've honestly not witnessed anywhere else. Of course we have our problems. We tend to chug along vacillating between smooth harmony and the bumpiness of hurt feelings and misunderstandings. There are three teenagers living in this house and one extremely moody 12 year-old, after all. Some days we are drowning in sarcasm and angst and eye rolls.
But most days we are orbiting in between and around each other with something very akin to harmony. It's beautiful this dance of balance and love and intelligent conversation. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. (except when they are arguing about who is going to eat the last cookie or who last took out the garbage. That's not at all warm and fuzzy). But when we are laughing around the dinner table or all singing along to the radio, that is sheer bliss (especially when someone jumps in and adds harmony).
Some days it hits me that this beautiful thing I call family won't always look this way. It's a thing in constant motion, ever changing. It's already so very different from how it looked when the kids were little, but I don't like to think about that, about the kids leaving home, venturing out to build their own homes and seek their own fortunes and adventure. This family feels too complete. Too perfect. Too comfortable. Like a favorite pair of jeans. Just exactly right. The six of us, whole and perfect. No one can leave. No one can rip this fabulously comfortable pair of jeans.
Of course, that's not how any of this works. Children grow up and they leave their mothers. It's the law of nature. Children grow out of our comfortable pair of jeans. Those jeans just aren't strong enough to contain them. Children become adults and burst out of our homes and into the world, ready to make lives of their own.
Sometimes the Universe has a way of reminding us mothers. It throws strange symbolic coincidences our way, coincidences that twist our hearts into tormented shapes we didn't think were possible.
How it had landed itself in the laundry when it hadn't been worn in over 18 years is rather odd, but probably due to a recent ambitious attic purge that I attempted but abandoned. I was rather surprised to find it and even more surprised by the wave of nostalgia and ache I felt over it. How did my 6'2" son ever fit into those tiny overalls? Where did the time go? Why was I not paying better attention?
My firstborn took his first steps in that outfit, tottering Frankenstein-style into my open arms. We were both so proud. If I had realized that every step he took after that would take him farther away from me, perhaps I would have held him just a little longer. Perhaps I would have held him there just one moment more as he pushed and struggled to get down and try it again. Maybe I would have breathed him in. It bothers me that I can't recall how he smelled that day. I can't remember what he smelled like when he snuggled against me, his head fitting just right in the crook of my neck. Now he smells like man sweat and Axe deodorant (apparently the ladies love it... whatever). When did that change? Why wasn't I paying attention.
On Wednesday, I rode shotgun in my son's truck as he drove to talk to an Army recruiter. He will be walking out of my arms soon, out into the world to make his own way. How strangely appropriate that he took his first steps into my arms wearing his cammies, and he'll take his first steps out of them wearing a different set. We will both be proud. This time I will remember to hold him just a little longer, until he mutters, "Uh... Mom? This is getting kind of weird." But I won't care.
So this version of family, my own metaphorical comfortable jeans, is about to be outgrown, just like those tiny overall cammies. We aren't losing a member, but things won't ever be quite the same. I will certainly feel the presence of his empty bed, his empty chair, his empty room (which won't be empty long. His sister has already called dibs.), his empty spot in this little family nest.
Things change. That kind of sucks. And yet it doesn't.
I'm sure I will cry the day he leaves for basic training, just like I cried that day he took his first chubby toddler steps. But will they be tears of joy, or tears of loss?
They will be both.
As for my comfortable jeans. I almost wish they were real jeans so I could pack them away, so they could mysteriously make it into the laundry some 18 years in the future. Because we will certainly find another, just as beautiful, yet very different way of existing as a family.
It might take a while to break it in, but I'm sure it will be just as comfortable, just as warmly beautiful, once we get the feel of it.