I ironed his pillowcase

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In two days our firstborn will be college-bound. In the midst of a busy summer, he and I have had to carve out intentional time to shop for dorm supplies, of which I know nothing about.

My husband and I got married young, real young. I was 19. He was 23. We were married on spring break and bought our first home when I was 21. That tiny foreclosure was the perfect place to learn power tools, how to be married students, and realize my own independence.

This dorm thing is new to me. I have fought the urge to over buy. Our son doesn’t want any bells and whistles, so when the school’s packing list mentioned house plants – well, he and I laughed out loud at that one.

He can certainly prepare for college on his own, but for me it’s extra time I get to spend with just him whether we’re in Target, Wal-Mart or beyond. We’ve shared laughs and memories on these shopping escapades that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

I’ll do anything to steal time away with my kids.

Minus a couple of technical items, like finding the dreaded required calculator, he’s all set.

Today, however, it hit me. He’s leaving home.

Over the last few weeks I’ve washed his two plastic cups, cheap silverware and his one glass bowl for microwaving and packed them in his plastic college tub. I’ve also washed his sheets and towels and repacked them with the small arsenal of dorm items huddled in the family room.

As I went to tuck the crisp, white sheets in the bag with the other bedding, I noticed the pillowcases were wrinkled beyond repair from the dryer.

The looked like giant, used handkerchiefs.

I tried flattening them with my hands but it was no use.

I tried to just let it go, but I couldn’t. Before I knew it I was setting up our creaky ironing board and plugging in the iron.

I hate loathe abhor ironing and avoid it at all costs, ask anyone who knows me – especially my family.

I’m neither patient enough nor good enough at it. For me, I’ve solved this problem by not owning anything that needs to be ironed.

So why on earth would I tackle horrendously wrinkled pillowcases that a steamroller couldn’t fix?

It’s my way of nesting a home I won’t live in for a boy I love with all my heart.

As the iron whistled and blew steam I thought of my firstborn lying down after a long day in a different state and resting his head on these pillowcases.

The same head that I oohed over in his sonogram when I was only 8 weeks pregnant. He had the cutest tiny bobble head with little nubs for arms and legs, but there he was, my baby.

The same head I cradled in the palm of my hand when he was born; that I watched my husband cradle as he swayed side-to-side in the hospital room, singing our baby boy to sleep.

The same head that turned away from baby food he refused to eat, donned silly Halloween costumes and proudly displayed lost baby teeth.

The same head that I held my breath over as he tumbled headlong into the opposing football player’s helmet in the game; that ducked and weaved through soccer players, using his head to launch the ball to his teammates; and that poured over the keys of the piano late into the night.

The same head that suffered a major concussion in Africa on mission and endured an injury at school that could have killed him. The same head I watched proudly drive away with his brand new license.

The same head that towered above the voting booth at his first election. Talk about making a mama proud!

I’ve watched my boy become a man and have learned a lot over the years about when to hold on and when to let go. Knowing time is short, I’ve not taken the days with my son for granted. I’ve counted each and every blessing of raising him.

And after a grueling senior year, we were both so happy to have it over with I shed no tears at graduation.

It’s time to let him fly.

Yes, the same little pumpkin that couldn’t reach the faucet on his own has grown into a tall body that stoops to hug me. As he rests his head on my shoulder, I am taken back to the days of rocking him to sleep in my arms. His long arms now wrap around me and I melt.

He has so many gifts, talents as strengths (most of which he doesn’t even see in himself, yet). I am thrilled he gets to enter this new phase of self-discovery.

But how I will miss him.

Fully able to fend for himself, I will miss kissing that sweet head goodnight.

Mothers grow and grieve in their own way. I never thought I’d feel so many mixed emotions about him leaving, nor find myself looking at him, holding his hand and leaning my head on his shoulder so much as I have this summer.

For me, a mom with a grateful, grieving heart, ironing the pillowcases that will soften his sleep is my way of wishing him sweet dreams – not only for a good night’s sleep, but as he works hard to make those dreams a reality.

And in his pursuit of this crazy thing we call life, I’ll be right here waiting to feel his precious head rest on my shoulders and tell him once again, You can grow up, but please don’t outgrow your mama.

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