When I stepped outside to get the morning paper today, I was
stunned to realize there were no cars parked in front of my
house. Thankfully, no crime had been committed. The day
before, my youngest had come home from college - briefly - to
retrieve her car for the rest of the school year.
As I stood on my front porch, I realized that, for the first
time in eight years, I had a clear view of my street without
the sight of my children's
not-so-new-but-in-fairly-good-shape vehicles. One by one,
they had gone: the '98 Toyota first to Charlottesville and
now parked in Baltimore; the '01 Ford to Harrisonburg; and
now the '03 Buick to Blacksburg.
Time had passed without my realizing. Strains of Mike Douglas
singing "Where is the little girl I carried?" filled my mind
as I thought about the fact that my little chickens had left
I remember when my son was born how time seemed to stand
still. The days were long, measured from feeding to feeding.
Days turned into nights, and the routine continued.
When the girls came along, time became my enemy, as I juggled
diapers and endless laundry with soccer practices and scout
meetings. I remember every night sitting on the couch
teaching my son to read as I nursed our youngest while my
husband tended to our middle child in the bathtub. For a
while, I felt like my husband and I were simply existing, not
living, in our efforts to raise our young family.
Now, those days were gone, and I was staring at the street
with no cars parked in front of our house.
The other day, I met a young couple bringing their newborn to
the pediatrician for his two-week checkup. They were loaded
down with a baby carrier, stroller and a diaper bag that
looked big enough to take on vacation. I congratulated them
and asked them how they were doing.
"He's not sleeping - at all," the mother said. "I can't wait
until we get past this phase."
I restrained myself from launching into a sermon to them
about how they should try to live in the moment and simply
smiled, wishing them the best.
As I look back over my years of motherhood, I can see times
that God made His presence abundantly clear to me. Each time
I handed one of my children to a woman they would call
"Godmother" and watched the priest pour holy water over their
heads, He was there. Each time I watched them approach His
altar and eat of His body for the first time, He was there.
And each time I clothed them in a robe of white to receive
the seal of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, He was there.
But it dawned on me as I stood there on my front porch that
while I paid close attention to Him in the sacraments they
received, I missed the many, many other times when He was
there, right alongside me, watching them grow up. As I
laughed with them around the dining room table during so many
Thanksgiving dinners; as I worried about who they were
hanging out with or why they hadn't texted me; as I cried the
whole way home after dropping each one off at college. While
God blessed me with children for what I first thought was an
eternity but turned out to be just a fleeting time, He was
with me before they were conceived, and He remains with me
now to help me learn how to live without them.
Two of my friends will deliver their first babies this month,
and I wonder what they're thinking about as they stand back
on the other side of the bridge that I've already crossed. I
want to tell them to drink it all in, just as it happens. And
realize that time means nothing to God, who always is, was
and will be.
Witko can be reached at email@example.com.