The other night the kids and I watched the final episode of a Disney show. It’s a cute little thing that’s been running for a few years….and a miracle form of entertainment in the fact that ALL of my kids actually enjoy watching it together.
So they were really pumped up for the FINAL episode….and I actually sat down to watch with them instead of doing one of 800 other more productive things.
As finales go it was fine.
The main character was heading off to college and saying good-bye to her family and friends as she prepared for the new chapter of her life.
When my eldest noticed that I was actually planted in one spot and looking toward the TV he said,
“Mom…you’re WATCHING with us????
Why? What’s the big deal about it being the last one?”
“I don’t know,” was my sagacious reply.
“Last ones seem to be the ones you should pay attention to and remember, I guess.”
Well said super-wise-mother….well said.
I remember a few years earlier watching the last episode of iCarly.
Again…wasn’t my personal favorite…
But I loved it because all of my children watched it together….
And it was kind of the end of an era.
(I will always remember how they danced and rubbed their stomachs during the theme song….)
I remember getting together with my friends in high school to watch the final episode of Cheers.
I remember my mom being teary-eyed after watching the last episode of MASH.
(What is with the final episode business?
We don’t KNOW these characters…
We don’t (mostly) CARE about these characters….
We might possibly identify with parts of the show but it’s a SHOW!
Not real life!!)
Then Disney did the inevitably cheesy yet annoyingly poignant flashbacks of the characters through the ages…..
showing how they’d grown and changed,
how they’d matured,
how they’d become older and bigger and more adult-like.
And I flipping teared up.
For crying out loud.
I don’t even particularly LIKE this show.
As my unruly eyes leaked tears while some character ( I still don’t even know her name!) sang some sappy song….my son asked me incredulously,
“Are you CRYING????”
Then, like the sweet kind children they are,
All three of them began comforting me with beautiful sentiments such as:
“Just wait until I go to college….it’s only 5 years away!”
“Well when I go you’ll have no boys left at home!”
“And when I leave your house will be soooooo empty!”
And as my angels all laughed uproariously at my sentimentally challenged self…
I smiled and directed their attention to the TV and just thought.
How sometimes I missed the final “episodes” with them.
I remember so clearly helping my first-born take his first steps.
I vividly recall him letting my fingers slide out of his tight fist as he stumbled forward
four steps before collapsing to the ground with a gigantic smile on his little face.
I remember that….
But I can’t remember the last time he needed my hands to keep him balanced.
I remember the first time I walked my younger son into school.
How he clung fiercely to my hand.
How he sat bravely at his desk with his eyes focused on the board trying not to cry.
How he gave me
three hugs before forcefully releasing me.
How he gave me a very small wave as I walked out of the door.
I remember that…
But I can’t remember the final time we hugged before he ran into school on his own.
I remember showing my daughter how to use a tippy cup.
I remember the feel of her sticky fingers on mine as we tipped it up over her head.
I distinctly recall the look of surprise on her face when she got JUICE from the cup instead of a bottle.
I remember that….
But when….when was the very last time she needed my help to do it?
Those “firsts” are so important.
But….what about the “lasts”?
When did he stop sleeping with his stuffed cow?
When did she stop needing a night light?
When did he give up his favorite blanket?
How did I miss those moments?
Why didn’t I realize that the “ends” of
eras….were so easy to miss?
I mean….superheroes were all one of my kids cared about for YEARS.
They ruled every facet of his life.
And now…he wouldn’t be caught watching Spiderman if a whole year’s allowance depended on it.
When did that happen?
How did I miss the end of that?
I still see him in a Flash costume….
but then I blink…
and it’s actually a football jersey and he’s being tackled by some ginormous 300-pound 7-foot tall lineman.
I wish I had know that these “lasts” were coming.
I would have maybe cuddled a little longer….knowing that the next night I wouldn’t be allowed to lay in her bed.
I might have sung one more horribly out of tune song if I knew that the next evening I would be told to “just turn out the light”.
I would have brought lunch to school and sat with him and his buddies one more time if I’d known the the next day I would get the whispered, “Thanks, Mom….but can you just hand it to me in the doorway and go on?”
I guess there’s a reason that “Don’t Know What Ya Got ‘Till it’s Gone” song did so well.
It’s horribly true.
And that’s probably why so many people still say things like,
“Don’t go to bed angry.”
“Always kiss good-night.”
“Never leave something unsaid.”
(etc etc etc etc)
Because we DON’T know when the last time will be.
Whether it’s the last time my son needs two pacifiers to sleep…
or the last time a kid needs an adult to drive him somewhere…
or the last time I get to hug my grandmother….
or the last time I get to say good-night to my dad…
or the last time I see a friend….
or the last time I get a chance to tell someone that I’m sorry.
First times are obvious.
Last times are not.
Except when they are cheesy hour-long finales that have been advertised for 3 months.
So I’m that sentimental mom who cries watching Disney.
I imagine how it’s going to be when I look UP at my baby,
Stretch high to put my arms around the shoulders I used to carry on my shoulder…
Kiss his stubbly cheek that I used to bury my face into….
And watch him drive off to a new life.
Then I blow my nose.
I promise myself to treasure what I’ve got in front of me.
I commit myself to enjoying what I have while I have it.
But also to remember that each “last”….makes room for a new “first.”
New phases and seasons of life can be beautiful.
Even the hard and painful ones…because they lead us to better ones.
“Lasts” aren’t necessarily bad….but they are sometimes hard.
They’re especially hard when you realize they’ve happened…and you somehow missed them.
As for the show…
Well–thankfully through the power of re-runs and DVR’s and all that high netflix techno jazz…
we can be happily reunited with our favorite characters whenever we want.
As for life…
I guess we will remember most of the “firsts”…
And just shake our heads at how fast they became “lasts.”
And when I try to explain to my kids that I watch the finales because I’ve missed the well-defined ends of various parts of real life….
And when they give each other the look that their mother has gone off the deep end and is neck-deep in unreachable crazy-mud…
And I start to cry as the teenage Disney stars sing some Elton John remake….
I’ll rest comfortably in the fact that it’s
probably possiblyy definitely not the last time I will dumbfound and confuse my children.
You’re welcome, angels.