As I write this, my three offspring and I are all under one roof. My roof. Theirs. Ours. The steep peaked number we’ve occupied (or two of us, at any rate) since the fall of 1993, the exact weekend when I was due to give birth to my oldest child. I was huge. Emphatically huge. HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE. So huge that total strangers often commented on My Emphatic Hugeness, then followed it up with some comment about the twins or triplets or dodecatulpets I was storing inside, then followed THAT up with some OTHER comment, usually a choked expression of disbelief that I was only actually storing just the one. (NO WAY!! Are you SURE? Have you had an ultrasound? You have?!? I don’t believe it! Snort. Really? Ha! Gasp. Spit. Wow! HAHAHAHA.) This Emphatic Hugeness did not prevent me from playing basketball at the hoop that came with the house that my late husband, my large belly and I had just moved into. It was a habit I assumed in the hopes that all the repeat hoppity motion would perhaps joggle the baby out of its inertia and down the birth canal with a nice, wet, swift, gurgling whoosh.
Of course no audible whooshing occurred in the birthing of that baby or the two who followed. For a time, as the kids were growing, the three-story house shrank in size, filling up with the kids and their friends and their noises. Then they began to grow up and past the phase when all their friends, as well as their noises, spent so much time at home. They started to live some of their lives under roofs less steep. Then their father died, and the older two whooshed themselves right out of the house for most of the school year, and the resultant sucking sound almost deafened me. My youngest and I have managed pretty well; in the last several months I’ve become accustomed to schlepping and shopping and cooking for two, and we have our little nightly routines. He’s good company. I’m not complaining.
But it’s all so strange and novel, just as everything at every point in parenting is all so strange and novel. We use the word “newborn” to describe that squirming thing of beauty we rock and feed in our arms, but since when do our children stop being new, stop being born? When is loving them and watching them grow NOT a revelation? When is saying goodbye to them NOT a stab in the heart? People talk about the “empty nest” stage as though every stop short of it isn’t a major life adjustment. The first time you set them down for naps and leave the room: that’s killer. Then you hand them off to a baby sitter. Drop the dribble-nosed urchins at preschool. Kiss their heads, inhaling that sweet powdery perfume of childhood, on their first day of kindergarten. Say goodbye to them at summer camp. Trust their chaperones on an overnight field trip. Trust your teens behind the wheel when they first get their license. Watch them graduate high school. Watch them move into college. Watch them leave. Wait for their return.
One day they flock home, and the house fills up again with the kids and their friends and their noises — until, late at night, they curl up on their beds and breathe under a single roof.
It’s happening right now. And it’s huge.