A few months ago, my husband and I got our wires crossed and needed to take one of our sons directly from baseball practice to soccer practice. We forgot his soccer gear. Joe called me and asked if I could go to his room, find his soccer cleats and shin guards and then rendezvous with them. Now, mind you, I do not often make an entrance to my boys’ room. I give them freedom to have their own space. But, to get the gear, I walked up the stairs, opened the bedroom door and almost passed out from the stench. I was completely convinced that the dog had pooped in the room. However, not one square foot of the floor was visible due to the piles of clothes, schoolbooks, skateboards, (yes, skateboards) and food wrappers. Immediately, my blood pressure shot through the roof. I have a simple rule about not eating upstairs. That rule had clearly been broken based on the 4-lb. of COSTCO chocolate chips in the floor. Ugh. My quick scan of the squalor across the floor saw no obvious dog poop so I walked toward their bathroom and realized that was the source of the stench. I won’t even try to describe the condition of the toilet. Let’s just say it probably had not been flushed in weeks. I turned my head, held my nose, and pressed the lever to get rid of the source of noxious fumes. Boys are gross! I then made my way to their closet to continue my quest for soccer shoes and cleats. I pushed open the door and startled at the site. There, in their closet floor was the bright green tablecloth that I had been searching for since Christmas.
Let me give some backstory. The week after the holidays, I lost this tablecloth. After Christmas dinner, I distinctly remember putting it in the washing machine. Somehow, I never found it coming through the laundry. This is no small tablecloth--72 inches round and chartreuse green! The week I lost it, I went on search frenzy through the house. I asked every child to check their laundry. I looked in every cabinet that held towels or linens. No luck. The nanny looked for it, I looked for it, Joe looked for and the kids looked for it. It had vanished. Furthermore, a few weeks prior to the cleat search, I had assisted the boys in “spring cleaning” their closet. Every square inch of that closet was emptied so I know that tablecloth was not in the bottom of their closet three weeks ago. Yet, right there it was, in glowing green glory, wadded up in the middle of their closet floor. My frustration with their squalor was immediately quelled by my astonishment in finding the tablecloth. I brought it downstairs with glee (without finding the cleats, by the way) and tossed it in the washer. Mission accomplished, regardless of the cleats!
That night at dinner, I began the inquiry. No one was talking. Neither boy had any idea whatsoever how that tablecloth got in the bottom of their closet. I wanted to be mad but all I could do was laugh! I had to savor the moment. I will never know where that tablecloth was for the last 6 months. Sometimes, you just have to savor things found.
That story got me thinking about this last year and how there have been so many moments to savor. Sure, COVID has been difficult, but I have realized it’s created such amazing times with my kids. Since dropping my oldest at college on Thursday, I have cherished the sweet memories this year created with her. The other three went to school in person, but Trilla, as a senior at Myers Park, spent most of the year in “home school.” When she went back to campus just a few days a week in the spring, I found myself so sad that she wasn’t at the house. I had the precious gift of eating lunch with my daughter at least once or twice a week for her whole senior year because she was at home. I would never have had that opportunity had it not been for COVID. Most of the time, I just sat and listened as she downloaded about her classes, or her friends, or her lack of interaction with other humans. Wow. I’m going to miss that so much.
Although I cried much of the last week before taking her to college, basically every time I looked at her, I held it together the whole day on Thursday. On the car ride to Chapel Hill, she oozed about her fears, dreams and goals for college. She even shared with me her “theme” song, Make Room, declaring she was making room in her heart for God to do with her life whatever He had planned. (I did not even cry listening to that song but felt the Scripture on my heart: Train up a child in the way she should go; even when she is old she will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6) Two carloads of stuff, six flights of stairs in 97° weather and no air-conditioning helped to distract me from my raw emotions. When we brought her last load to the foot of the building, she grabbed it, lightly hugged us as her hands were full, and turned around and walked up the stairs. No big scene. She just walked away, taking a piece of my heart with her. I drove the 2 1/2 hours home very quiet and thinking a lot about this chapter closing.
Because we were so busy, I had missed many of my texts throughout the day on Thursday. As I crawled into bed to read my Bible and reflect on my day, I scrolled through the texts I had missed. One got me. My dear friend, who just dropped her fourth at college last week, shared with me a great analogy. She said she always hated it when friends told her that it would get easier with each child. She confirmed that it doesn’t! And, she said with each college drop off she felt like she was playing a game and somebody yelled: “Time's up!” That’s exactly how I felt! I then let the tears fall on my pillow like rain. My little girl was had moved out. My time with her was up.
After an hour or so of sobbing, I turned out my light to try to find some sleep amidst my sea of emotions. Within seconds, the phone rang. It was Trilla. Her voice was like a panacea to my pain. She was chattering in a stream of consciousness about she had already been to Franklin Street, she was walking home with FroYo, and she’d even stopped by Christian frat house to meet some new friends. “Don’t worry, Mom, it was a dry frat!” I could see her smile from ear to ear as she recounted her evening. Her call turned my sorrow into joy.
I know those downloads will be fewer and farther between over the next few years. And, I know that our relationship will change from mother-daughter to mother-friend. But, I decided Thursday night to savor every single moment, not only with her but with all of my children. I often get so distracted and busy with life that I forget what a gift it is to be a mother. I opened my Bible to my Thursday night devotion and read these words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Savor the time with your kids before someone yells: “Time's up!”