Last Friday

            We had expected tears, meltdowns, and other assorted flavors of preschool objections to being moved.  As the day approached, however, Zachary seemed to have made peace with the fact that he would be leaving behind the only life he remembered.  He told us he did not want to move, he expressed very clearly his concerns about leaving friends behind, but he seemed remarkably calm for a three-and-a-half-year-old who knew his life was about to be turned upside down but had absolutely no idea what the new place and the new life would be like.

            Other than an emergency stop in rush hour traffic to pee on someone’s gate, he took the ride to the airport hotel in stride.  He slept fine in the hotel that night, and ate well at breakfast the next morning.  He played happily at the airport, chattering on about who-the-hell-knows-what the whole time. 

They called our flight, and we gathered our children and absurd number of carry-on bags filled with books and trains, and headed for the elevator to join the masses getting ready to board flights.  And there, in the elevator, it happened.  J pushed the button.  The button Zachary wanted to push. 

I hauled a hysterical child off the elevator and plopped him down on a step, informing us he could come on over whenever he calmed down.  We stood, J, Benjamin, and I, four or five feet away, waiting.  Thirty seconds or so later, Zachary pulled himself together and whimpered his way over to us.  He and his father worked out an elevator-button pushing agreement, and we were able to proceed towards the gate.

Heathrow is a large airport, and the hallways can seem to stretch forever.  I pushed the stroller, Benjamin seated and Zach standing on the buggy board, while J played pack mule to our wide assortment of crap.  Halfway down the long walk to the gate, Zachary started crying again.  I thought we were just dealing with residual whine from the elevator incident, and I snapped as I stopped to listen to his problem, “There had better actually be something wrong.”

“What’s wrong, Zach?” I asked, hoping we could make it quick so we could, you know, actually make our flight.

In a very small voice, almost afraid of what he was about to express, he told me.   “I don’t want to leave.”  He was crying.  In earnest.  Not those tearless tantrums designed to manipulate his parents, but grief-filled sobs of heartbreak. 

There was no response but to pick him up, sit down in the closest chair, and hold him on my lap.  There was nothing I could say to make mitigate the loss and heartache that life dictates we all learn to cope with.  All I could do was be present and feel it with him. 

And, in that moment, it was clear to me that, although the doctors may have cut that umbilical cord in September of 2004, there was something they had left intact.  Something that flowed not from me to Zachary, but the other way around.  Something that has only grown over the last 43 months.  It was clear to me that his emotions flow towards me, that his grief and his joys are shared in a way that is deeper than empathy, stronger than concern, and more basic than love.

As I sat there in the middle of a hallway of people rushing to make their flights, holding a three-year-old who was mourning a loss he could not even comprehend, I realized that every pulse of his heart is echoed in mine.  

32 responses to “Last Friday

  1. I know just what you mean. I spent, pregnant, the first few months living here feeling that. Every time we drove up to the new house Patience would burst into tears and say, “No, no, not this house, I want to go HOME, to *my* HOME.” Oy it ripped me up.

    So beautifully written, felt and understood.

    (hugs) to you and poor Zachary.

  2. Very sensitive boy you have there, Emily! I hope that he will like his new home and make loads of new friends … then everything will be forgotten in a flash of time!

  3. Sending you and Zach some extra love.

    Your last two paragraphs are so, so stunningly lovely. I know exactly what you mean.

  4. And that connection, will continue for a long, long time.

  5. Oh this made me cry! I hope he just LOVES his new place!! I really hope the transistion is a good one for you all Emily. HUGS!

  6. Emily, you are such a great mom – so connected to your children’s emotions. This was beautiful!

  7. This was so beautiful.

    I still miss my childhood home. I think places can become living things inside your heart. The good news is that your son will always have a place to call his.

    Wonderful mothering, friend.

  8. Oh honey, I know. We’ve moved so many, many times and once or twice it was a happy move away (see ya, Texas heat!) and once or twice a happy move towards (yay! Ocean) but twice it was utterly heartbreaking and I will never forget Child 1 sitting with the best friend of its soul, arms twined around necks and sobbing. Dang it, I’m tearing up just thinking about it and that was 10 years ago!

  9. Oh, Emily. It’s heartbreaking.

    But, I feel very confident he’ll be fine, because he’ll have what he needs – you. And if that’s not something to pin you to this planet, I don’t know what would.

    Thinking of you.

  10. Oh, the poor little guy. I hope the rest of the trip went well, and that you all settle quickly.

    My Little Mister will be 2-1/2 when we move from Germany to…well, to wherever the Army sends us. Reading this makes me wonder what that will be like..

  11. You made me cry! Having sensitive boys can be so heartbreaking sometimes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Still, it is so hard to see them cry like that. Praying he settles and adjusts well, and you too!

  12. Oh, babe! Maybe all that California sunshine will even out some of the rough spots …..

  13. Hugs to you both!

    He’s still at an age where *you* are his home. He’ll miss his surroundings, sure, but he’s got you, and that can be his ground. Lucky boy!

  14. That broke my heart and made me cry. Oh.

    You said it all exactly right. I almost wish my kids were home from school so I could hug them.

  15. My heart just swelled to unbelievable size…wow…I just want to hug that little guy…I can only imagine how you felt…WOW!

    thanks for sharing!

  16. Oh have mercy. You are such a gifted pen, girl.

  17. Beautiful, beautiful post.
    Good luck – I hope you all feel at home again soon.

  18. Poor dude. Poor ickle dude.

  19. I hope the rest of the move went well, I’ve been thinking about you guys.

  20. Oh my heart! What a lucky boy he is to have you as his mom. Just beautiful. What a post!

  21. ah, yes. you mother, you. yes.

  22. I moved myself and my kids over two years ago, and I still don’t know if G has ever fully gotten over it. Little ones take things so hard to heart sometimes that it’s hard to know what to do. Sometimes all you can do is hold them…

  23. I so hope Zach ends up loving his new home. It’s heartbreaking when they are geniunely upset about something important, but with a little luck, maybe he will learn to appreciate the good that comes with the bad.

    Beatiful post!

  24. I wish your entire clan happiness in your new home.

    It’s heartbreaking to watch your child upset about something so worthy of being upset over, but you cannot change. How wonderful that Zachary can feel such a connection to people and place.

  25. Oooh, that gave me goosebumps – “I realized that every pulse of his heart is echoed in mine.” A maternal connection is like no other!

  26. “All I could do was be present and feel it with him. ” To me, this is the absolute heart of mothering.

  27. this made my heart lurch. i hope you guys are settled now (at least a bit) and that he (and you) are enjoying your new home.

  28. okay, I am actually crying now. Could I be afraid of our move planned for next year. I guess so. I spend a lot of time not thinking about it.

  29. So lovely, that bit at the end. So true, too.

  30. Oh my, I’m crying now too. Poor little tyke. It’s hard to be small and in control of so little in life. But I’m so impressed that you’ve raised a little one who can articulate himself so well, and allows himself to feel. This is good.

  31. Learning to comprehend loss is quite a journey. His active approach is better than my pragmatic one. How jaded one has become to accept loss as inevitable.