I grabbed the box of Frosted Mini-Wheats and gave it shake. Urgh, empty. I peered inside to see three lonely bite-sized morsels in a sea of crumbs. Not one to be wasteful, I poured it into a bowl and finished them off.
Next, I grabbed the box of Honey Graham Oh’s and gave that box a shake. Urgh, empty. I pulled out the bag and held it up. More than a handful, I decided, so I poured them into my bowl and splashed on some milk. As I crunched away, I eyed the box of Total Raisin Bran now standing vulnerable and alone. I didn’t have to shake that box to know what I was going to find next.
Fifteen bran flakes and four raisins later, I was both full and teary-eyed. My adventures in fiber, sweetness and crunch did nothing but remind me that my days of polishing off the last of the cereal were numbered. One year from now, the house will be quiet and the cereal boxes full. I am thinking of switching to eggs.
It starts when they are babies, this finishing-the-last-piece thing that mothers do. It becomes one of our jobs. We eat the crusts of the grilled cheese sandwiches, the last bite of ice cream melting in the dish, and the pieces of steak they just learned to cut for themselves. We clean up the last of the toys before nap time, read the last few sentences of the storybook, and sneak in the last few math problems of homework so they can get their weary bodies to bed on time. Even now, as I insist that my son learn to do his own laundry before life in a dorm, I find myself pulling his clothes from the dryer and folding them. Finishing the task for him.
It’s a sacred dance. The child starts and the mother completes, the beginnings and endings woven in layers so complex that I barely notice anymore the fine line where his starting ends and my endings start.
But I am painfully aware of this one. The chapter that started 18 years ago is ending. I still have time, though, and I will chew this cereal slowly and cherish the adventures in laughter and sweetness and crunch, because this last year is an important one. The dance changes after this, and I am not looking forward to learning the new steps.
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