My oldest daughter, Lucy, doesn’t often make it into this column. It’s not because she isn’t fantastic or hilarious or worth writing about. It’s just that she’s so very steady. She doesn’t do anything egregiously insane, which – if you’ve read this column for a while, you know – is kind of our bread and butter around here, and usually the territory of my three youngest sons, and occasionally me.
But here she is, a freshly minted high school graduate, and I feel that an “ode to Lucy” is in order.
From the moment she was born and one of the nurses in the delivery room declared, “She’s spectacular!”, Lucy was everything I’d ever dreamed of, bundled into one fussy little baby.
It wasn’t until I had a couple more kids under my belt that I realized that, in Lucy’s case at least, the reason she had been so fussy was because I wasn’t feeding her enough. Before she was born, I had read all the parenting books and subscribed to the idea that a baby should only need to eat every four hours; if she was fussy beyond that, it must be for some other reason. As more children came into the picture and I chilled out a little bit, I realized that poor baby Lucy’s fussiness hadn’t been her fault; it had been mine. And thus the first “whoops” of my mothering career was accomplished.
Since that slightly rocky start, Lucy has been an easy-going, even-keeled delight of a daughter. Lucy takes after her dad (and is my complete opposite) in that she is a classic under-reactor. This is an amazing skill to have, say, if your house is on fire, or you’re supposed to deliver a speech to your class and you only started writing it 20 minutes ago. For textbook over-reactors like myself, under-reactors are difficult to understand.
Take, for example, gifts. If someone hands me a gift – be it a handmade macaroni necklace or sparkling diamond earrings – I’m going to react more enthusiastically than you’ve ever seen anyone react before. I will gush with praise and gratitude. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that I LOVE THIS GIFT AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR GIVING IT TO ME.
On the other hand, if I were to present Lucy with a blanket that I’d knitted from the hand-spun wool sheared off a lamb I’d raised in her honor since infancy, she would most likely give me a quick hug and thank you and that would be that.
See what I mean? Little brothers excluded, there’s not much that gets Lucy ruffled.
As Lucy prepares to leave for college in a couple months, it’s the little things that are tugging at my heartstrings. Like today, when I was putting away the milk from breakfast and caught a glimpse of our rotating “chore wheel” that has been stuck to the refrigerator door for about five years. I realized that in just a matter of months, I’ll be taking Lucy’s name off that wheel forever, because she simply won’t be here. Ouch.
When Lucy was younger, we were talking about something that hadn’t quite gone right, but that we could try again. Her little brother George cheerfully said, “There’s always tomorrow!”, to which Lucy replied, “There’s always tomorrow, until the world explodes!”
She was very correct, and please bear with me while I try to twist that hilarious kid statement into something meaningful. Now that Lucy is about to head off to college and into her future, I don’t doubt that she is going to do exceptionally well. But it’s hard for my heart to come to grips with the fact that, as far as her living in my little nest and being under my wing, our “tomorrows” are very limited.
Her world is about to explode into color and experience and growth, and I’m so happy for her. But I can’t help but feel like mine is exploding a little bit as well, in that life with my little family as it’s always been is over.
They say that change is the only constant, but I’ve never been a big fan of change. Saying goodbye to Lucy is going to hurt; I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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