It was five minutes until time to leave, and I wasn't sure if I would be able to find them. I reached up on a high shelf and dug my hand deep into the wicker basket. Winter gloves, a pink scarf, and finally - two tiny pairs of shin guards.
I picked the pair with the least amount of wear and tear and put the basket back on the shelf. I walked over to where four-year-old Edgie was waiting patiently but for swinging his bare legs.
"Here you go," I said, putting the guards in place over his tiny little shins. I pulled some white socks over them and tied the cleats that I had pulled out of the tote containing all the brothers' old shoes. "Now you look like a real soccer player!"
He beamed as he hopped off the stool and ran toward the back door where Hubby was waiting with a soccer ball.
I couldn't help both smiling with excitement and sighing with a little sadness as I watched them kick the ball back and forth. I can remember the first time those two little sets of shin guards were put over skinny little shins.
As soon as Joey and Slim turned three, I signed them up for Tiny Tots soccer. I really wanted little soccer players in the family. Soccer was my favorite sport, and the only one I played growing up.
Only, Joey complained about the long grass being itchy and Slim ran screaming from the late summer swarms of bees.
We tried again the next year, playing micro soccer through our church. Joey dutifully ran up and down the field with the other children, while Slim worked the sidelines, yucking up the crowd by telling jokes to the parents.
We had two more tries at micro soccer with Knox and Lil' C. They even played a little longer, but decided this year they would focus more on baseball and basketball. Edgie is my one last chance to have a soccer player.
Which makes me both excited and sad. I have been through five first times of everything: births, smiles, laughs, words, steps, friends, days of school, sports teams. While there are some similarities, they've all been different in their own ways according to the little boy who experienced them.
They each brought their own spin to every situation. I know there are so many more firsts to come. I look ahead to them with such excitement - well, some fear. The sad or scary firsts anyway.
But Edgie is it. He is my one who will have the last first times. He is the one who will have to help me say good-bye.
And so far, it's been pretty tough for me.
Before Joey got sick, I was hoping I would have just one more baby. Lil' C didn't represent the last for me. I didn't know what would happen; I just knew what I hoped.
After Joey's death, I began to realize all the last first times I missed.
I forgot to feel the precise weight of the baby in my arms.
I didn't memorize the smell of my baby's head the last time I nursed him.
I couldn't recall the sound of the baby giggle that sent me into a fit of laughter.
I didn't hold on more tightly when he said, "Stay with me when I fall asleep."
I didn't take extra pictures on the first day of preschool or memorize the song they sang on Special Visitors Day.
Then along came Edgie, my first last chance.
And I held him tighter,
and nursed him longer,
and stayed with him until he fell asleep.
I memorized his laugh,
and his smell,
and the texture of his soft curly hair.
I get another chance to drink in all the last first times because now I know they are coming.
I don't know if Edgie will be my soccer player or not (the way he ran the whole game without complaining and kicked the ball hard more times than all the other boys combined tells me otherwise, though), but I'm so grateful that I got to drink in that last first game. The excitement, the heart-melting cuteness, and the last first experience to compare to all the others.
Some last firsts I can predict - the last first day of high school, for example - but others I cannot. I know life will throw us curve balls sometimes and take those last first times away from us. I know my boys will throw us curve balls and decide on their own first and last times. I'm not foolish enough to think that Edgie will choose all of the same paths as his brothers.
But I think I'm ready now to take notice of all the moments and recognize that they might be the last first times so I had better drink in every sip of their sweetness.