Little Charlie? He’s the big guy in the yellow shirt

By Lori Clinch

For a good, solid year now, I have felt people staring at me, wondering how on earth I was ever going to let our youngest son go off to college.

I would be lying to you if I told you that I wasn’t a bit worried about that matter myself.

I wondered as Charlie started his last first day of high school. I pondered the idea as he played in his last football game, and I certainly worried about it when his graduation day finally arrived.

It worried me sick because in my mind, with his curly locks and boyish face, Charlie was still my baby.

Just after graduation, Charlie began to grow a beard. I was fine with that.

Then he started working out like it was his job and quickly transformed his figure from tall and lanky to, “Holy cow that kid has bulked up!”

Worse yet was the day he said, “Ma, how about we cut my hair and hey, let’s trim it short!”

“OK,” I said with ignorant bliss. I grabbed my clippers and took a swipe right down the middle of his crown of curly locks and I’ll be danged if he didn’t go from my Little Charlie to a full-grown “Hey, Charles Man!”

I realize that I tend to exaggerate and have been known to stretch the truth from time to time, but I kid you not when I say that during that clipping moment, Charlie literally grew up right before my eyes.

If I could have glued the hair back on, I would have, but there was no turning back.

“Where’s Charlie?” my good friend asked at Charlie’s all-star basketball game in June.

“He’s number 24,” I answered as I popped some popcorn into my mouth.

“The big man with the beard?” Trixie responded.

“That would be my baby.”

“No,” she said barely above a whisper.

“Yep,” and that was all I could say.

“Who is that guy?” my good friend Karen asked at our antique shop just last week.

“What guy?” I replied.

“The one over there with Pat and your other boys.”

“That’s Charlie.”

“No,” she replied matter of factly. “Who is the big man in the yellow shirt?”

“That, my dear Karen, would be our Charlie.”

She didn’t believe me until she approached my bulked-up baby and he gave her his award-winning smile and a hug before he said, “Hey, Karen!”

A mere six months ago, I watched him walk with his older brother and I wondered to myself if Charlie would ever seem old enough to leave his mother’s watchful nest. Well, it turns out he would accomplish just that.

As hard as it is to see the “baby” grow up before your very eyes, I must say his size made things easier when we took Little Charlie, who is not little anymore, to his campus home far away from his loving mother.

While it broke my heart to know we would have to leave Charlie there to fend for himself, at least I no longer had to worry that someone would steal him.

We brought along a load of lovely items and most of our favorite household wares to Charlie and Lawrence’s new digs. We hauled in some of our favorite dishes and best linens and helped them set up “shop.”

Then we took Charlie and Lawrence to the supercenter and, to Lawrence’s tune of “Stock up now! Because when they leave, it’s all us!” they broke the bank.

So there you have it folks. My dearly beloved spouse and I have turned a page on a new chapter. We have graduated four sons, brought them into adulthood and dropped them off at the doorsteps of their new futures. Now we can sit on the antique rockers on our front porch, hold hands and congratulate ourselves on a job well done.

I don’t believe our parenting will ever end, but if we did it right, our sons will need us less and less.

Hopefully they will become all they can and will raise families of their own. One day they will understand why it’s bittersweet to let children go.

Our Charlie? Well, he can grow up all he wants to, but I’m here to contend – he will always be the baby.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to loriclinch2010@gmail.com