It happened right under my nose and yet, I failed to recognize the signs until the realization hit me one day as I stood in my laundry room holding an unfamiliar item of clothing and wondering to whom it belonged. Based on the style, I knew it wasn’t mine, which left only a few possibilities including an obvious one that I didn’t want to consider. After checking the size and gingerly fingering the fabric for a minute a strange sinking feeling came over me that I could not deny any longer. Gently, I folded the garment and laid it atop a nearby pile trying to ignore the sting of tears that threatened my eye sockets and burned the back of my nose.
The shirt belonged to my youngest son who somehow, without my knowledge or permission had grown up and was nearly the size of his father.
Now lest you think I am a sentimental idiot, I am well-aware that the boy has been taller than me since he was 12, sports the occasional stray hair on his chin and talks in a much deeper voice than he used to, but he is also the same person who still scatters Lego parts from the attic to the basement, sleeps with a beloved stuffed animal and leaves a sticky residue on every household surface that he touches. Technically I could have a toilet training toddler around here rather than an 18-year-old-soon-to-be-college student. So forgive me for feeling as if I have been lulled into a false sense of security.
So how did this happen without my knowing about it? It seemed that everything was fine when he was wearing those cute little cartoon briefs but changed when he graduated into those solid colored boxers that grew exponentially over the years and suddenly started landing in my husband’s dresser drawer.
“These aren’t mine,” he declared, handing me a stack of Hanes apparel, a Doctor Who shirt and several pairs of socks I’d long since gave up trying to match to their appropriate owner. “Can’t you tell the difference between my clothes and his?”
“Well of course I can,” I lied. Though in my defense, they both love Doctor Who, I hate folding underwear and seriously once a guy reaches a size 10 Nike, who can tell the difference anymore. Grab a pair of socks and move on!
Still, holding that gray shirt that somehow looked different to me when my son was wearing it, it was clear I had missed something and I instantly regretted every time I dreamed of being an empty nester, told him to grow up or act his age. How dare he follow my advice like that! Just for a moment, I wish I could travel through time like his favorite TV character in order to dress him in Garanimals rather than the Gap, fill out his preschool registration rather than the FAFSA or decorate the nursery of my baby once more instead of the dorm room of a man.