If Only I’d Known it Would be the Last Time I’d Carry Her

little-girl-lostI wish I’d taken my time. I wish I’d leaned in and taken a deep breath, pulling in that musky scent made of a long day of play. I didn’t.

I huffed and puffed and moaned and groaned.

I stopped just inside the doorway, pushing her bottom onto the counter, heaving a sigh of heavy relief as I pulled shoes from feet and hat from hair. I stood for a moment, catching my breath. I still had a long, steep staircase to mount.

I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d make the trip I’d made so many, many, many times before. Unbuckling a harness in the early days, later a seat belt. Wrapping arms ’round my neck. Slipping my hands behind her back and pulling her close, the gentle breath of sleep warm on my neck as I made my way across the lawn, into the house and to her bedroom.

You never know when it will be the last time. The last time they call you “Mommy.” The last time they ask for a bedtime story. The last time they whisper a promise to never ever leave home because they’d miss you too much.

We push and prod our way to the firsts, cheering them as they roll over, take steps, wrap their hands around a fork and a spoon. We can’t wait until they’re talking and running and using an actual toilet. Every child is different and so too are the milestones they manage, but there are some basic guidelines at least, books and pediatricians telling us that development follows a certain series of firsts.

They don’t tell you about the lasts.

They don’t tell you to prepare for the day you pull into the driveway, wrest keys from the ignition, open the back door, unbuckle the car seat, wrap arms round your neck, slip hands behind back and stop.

She’s too big now, legs and arms too long to drape around me as I make the walk from car to house to bedroom. And so I open the car door. I unbuckle the seat belt. And I lean in to take one deep breath before I whisper, “We’re home.”

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