Remembering the last times of things...
I was at a graduation party for a friend of my son’s and an interesting conversation came up at the table I was sitting around. The topic: Remembering the last time for things. And as we were talking, I knew I wanted to write about it. What about exactly? I’m not sure.
Obviously, we all tend to think of the last time for things after the person is no longer with us, right? I think it is natural to reflect and think to ourselves about our “lasts” with that person who has since passed on. It’s final, it stands out. It is what we hold on to.
But I’m making reference to a different kind of “last time” moments.
Since I was at a high school grad party, the topic of “the last time” was revolving around our own kids who have now reached their high school graduation. Of course we parents get all nostalgic with them graduating and all. I will remember my son Joey’s last hockey game of his high school career in a Red Knight jersey, or the last high school dance he went to, what he wore on his “last first day” of high school. I’m pretty sure I even made it VERY clear the last time I would have to drive him to school because he got his drivers license shortly after and no longer needed me to be his chauffeur. But as we rewind the clock to yesteryear to when they were much younger, I don’t know that I truly remember all of his childhood “lasts” – especially those lasts from when he was a toddler, or even in junior high. Giving it heavy thought, I wish I had remembered more of those random lasts.
Indeed, we document the firsts, right? Especially first time parents! Like their first tooth, their first word, the day they took their first steps, etc. Those things that go right in the baby book the minute they happen. (or, in today’s time…on social media!) But what about documenting the lasts? My discussion with this other parent was more about the little things. Like – do you remember the last time they sat in a high chair? The last time they slept in their crib before the transition to a “big boy” bed? The last time they’d wear a diaper and move on to the Pull-Ups, and then before you know it, moving into a regular pair of underpants without cartoons on them, because they had outgrown the comforts of a cartoon character? The last time they took a tubby and instead started to shower on their own? Their last time riding the bike with training wheels before they were off on 2 wheels, all by themselves? I don’t know that I remember all of those lasts. As a parent, we work so hard to help our kids grow and develop and move on to the next “thing” – that I think we tend to forget the lasts before they moved on to the next big things in their young lives.
My son used a “nuk” (pronounced like: sewing nook) or a pacifier/nukie, and he had a “blankie” which was one of those really light weight cloth diapers that you could buy in a 6 pack or a 12 pack. He was like Linus from Charlie Brown, yes. I always erred on having more than I needed, because there was not just one single blankie, there were many…thank goodness because if we lost one, they’d be much easier to replace. But having his nukie and his blankie were his comforts, as he shared time between my home and his dads. The blankie and his nuk were the constant. Among a few random Snoopy stuffed animals and some tiny elephant stuffed toys he would bring from place to place. He used to place the blankie over the side of his head, just covering his eyes at bedtime. It was how he helped us tuck him in, sometimes asking me if I’d rub his back. Most times I was reluctant – as if I had better things to do than to spend time with my son who was asking me for my time! On the last night of him having his nuk at bedtime, I remember I talked him out of having it, and we talked about the nuk until he fell asleep. YES! I remember one of the last times for him! As he got older, the blankie made an occasional appearance on those days where he didn’t feel well or wanted a little extra comfort when going to sleep. (Nope, I don’t recall the last time of him carrying it either!) We still have a few blankets as keepsakes, by the way. Or should I say I HAVE the blankets. ;-) And, once in a blue moon, I still get asked to rub his back.
I kind of wish I would have remembered the last time Joey watched Toy Story II on VHS for the umpteenth time. Or any VHS tape for that matter. (You know, those things that we dreaded as parents to watch over, and over again.) I wish I would have been able to recall the last time he mispronounced something and said it right in his little victorious voice. Life flashes before our very eyes all the time. It is amazing what we recall, what we think we’ll never forget, and those things in between that we never even thought twice about.
Even looking back at some of my own keepsakes (I still have notes from 6th grade still…yes, a packrat indeed) – I had to pause and take a moment to think back: when did I sketch my last sketch back then? When was the last time I would have used a house phone in my bedroom? When was the last time I made a mixed cassette tape? Or when did I give up my last quarter I would put into a table top Ms Pac Man as a kid? What was the last note I WROTE to someone in elementary school? The last dive I would take off of a diving board? So many things to think about!
I think the point in my rambling is the subtle discovery I made with this topic. I have since recognized how we as parents have perceived those first moments to be so important, yet we never quite grabbed on to the concept of when it would be their last time of doing those same things. Until they graduate from high school, of course! Then…all the sudden, all the feels come out and many parents are left sitting in this small world of panic thinking about all of the lasts their child will ever have as a high school student. Imagine how emotional we would have been if we really remembered ALL of the not-so-notable lasts!
To wrap this post up, let me end by offering this little bit of advice to you that you did not ask for. Take a step back, and for a moment or 2, take stock of where you are at in the moment of your child and your family. Be it your own parent or loved one, a baby, or toddler…or even like me, where your baby is all grown up and graduated from high school ready to start that next chapter. Savor their goofy little mannerisms. And do your best to try to remember their last times. Ultimately, their last times are your last times, too. We all have been given the gift of life. It is up to us how we choose to live it, and even more so how we preserve memories of the firsts. And lasts.
Thanks for reading.
-Monda the Photographer