He arrived three weeks early—an unexpected beginning to a long-awaited arrival. My son—crinkled and pink with a tuft of fine blonde hair—held every promise of childhood in his sea blue eyes.
That first contraction prodded me—squeezing out the last bits of a former self—to bid farewell.
It would be the first farewell on motherhood’s long string of goodbyes.
And the abrupt introduction to the yet-unknown love of my new life.
My firstborn—now thrust in the unapologetic combat boots of adolescence—carried me over the marble threshold to motherhood. As I crossed over, I looked back and waved at the woman on the other side, who waited there, with her arms still folded. She glared at me—clinging to answers and notions that she convinced herself she already knew.
Know-it-all. Independent. Emotionally exclusive.
I stared again at her—in her unstained, flowing shirt and her impractically high platform shoes—then waved and let her go. That twenty-something who never left the house without wearing lip liner and who always did The New York Times crossword. In ink.
The young lady who thought long, hard thoughts about foreign movies she watched at the Angelika. The woman who allowed her heavily draped heart to receive light from a select few.
The person who focused on herself.
Our long goodbye was softened by a warm hello. A hello to a chapter where I humbly admitted that I no longer knew anything.
I said goodbye to unplanned Saturdays, unstained clothes and uninterrupted conversations.
I said goodbye to toothless, drooling grins only to say goodbye again to baby-white smiles.
I said goodbye to each of my three sons as they faded behind their first decorated classroom doors.
I said goodbye to bouncy seats and weathered strollers and reluctantly donated barely-used onesies and formerly favorite superhero shirts. (“Ma, that shirt is for BABIES!”)
I said goodbye as I left my eldest home alone for the first time. And returned five minutes later.
For each dramatic farewell, I made attempts to tether every sob and stifle each tear in front of my boys. Instead, I cry during solo rides in my smelly mini-van as I neatly label each of these goodbyes as organic rights-of-passage. The natural order of things. Transitions.
Goodbyes are tragically bittersweet.
I remind myself that balloons sometimes break, are sometimes let go and yet some eventually deflate on their own.
But each balloon stands aloft in its own celebratory moment.
As I watch my boys cross their own thresholds, I anticipate initial drives on highways, the day when my youngest no longer reaches for my hand, the moment I leave each son at his dorm room. Rooms devoid of Star Wars sheets.
Motherhood’s goodbyes are really pre-packaged hellos.
Greetings and welcomes to those beautiful, forthcoming moments that will forever reside so naturally in our hearts.
I flat-left that lip-lined woman behind the threshold to embrace the heart-song and heartbreak of motherhood.
We are always evolving, morphing into what we are becoming.
An exhaustive work in progress.
But always in impractically high platform shoes.