this morning before i departed from things 2 and 3 to dry my hair before venturing out to the virginia saskatchewan that represents our weather today to walk to their hive of learning i said, “no fighting; get dressed to leave for school. pack your backpacks, i’m going to dry my hair so it doesn’t break off outside.” thing 2 says, “hair break off? hee hee, you’re funny mama.” and “wwwhhhhirrrrrrrrrr” i’m in my 76db cave of silence.
they’re on a harry potter kick. thing 2 got an official harry potter wand for his birthday. upon receipt, he was kind enough to give thing 3 his old one that he actually stole from thing 1 about two years ago…. i don’t know if that’s so much as a “hand me down” as it is a “hand it over.” luckily thing 1 couldn’t be less interested. nevertheless, they’re happy at hogwarts a la living room. dan and i always say that the best thing we could have ever done was give thing 3 to thing 2.
between blasts of asbestos-free heat from my hair dryer i sense crashing and hear, “STUPEFY!” and “something-something-OSA!” and “can’t-make-it-out-IN-I-SUM!” along with their own sound effects and the inevitable, “NO, i got you first! — STUPEFY!”
i do not hear the silence of back-pack packing. nor do i hear the silence of jacket-putting-onning. more crashes, “>wiiing!< sound effects and leaps… “blah-blah-I-O-SEE-IA!”
normally, i would become utterly infuriated, let my ego do the screeching for me and reign down on them, “I SAID GET DRESSED! I SAID GET DRESSED!” but something was different this time.
i let them go on (“if music be the food of love, play on!”). because it hit me – just for a nanosecond, but its effect was and is still lasting, undulating through my being, still resonating like a sweet tone: one day, they’re gonna be gone. >poof!< driving off to high school, falling in love, off to college, falling in love, skipping classes, falling in love…. and i won’t get to have any more moments of screeching, “I SAID GET DRESSED! I SAID GET DRESSED!” for they will be not in my house anymore. there will be the late dinners after practice followed by the later nights studying. they will dash out of the house after changing with a couple san pelligrino limonatas and an entire bag of pretzels and i won’t see them for hours. they will come home on holidays, maybe bring a friend or two, and stay ’til break is over. but they won’t be little. they won’t be harry and ron. i will pine for the moments of self-made sound effects, of “murmur-murmur-IN-I-TUM!”
in the moments when i wince from the sting of stepping on a lego piece barefoot in the dark, i try to remind myself that in the not-very-distant future my heart will pang for the legos everywhere. for the underwear that’s 3″ from the hamper. for the lunch boxes that smell like stale milk. for the scrawl on the homework with the dried mini-marshmallow stain from the snuck hot-cocoa.
it’s part of the process. i see myself in mirrors now and while i am blessed with good genes, i’m not a fan of 20/20 vision anymore. i don’t care for indirect lighting. my jawline isn’t as defined as it once was. my cheeks are less cherry-like. i prefer my body in the morning when it’s fresh from the bed and has no obvious signs of end-of-day gravity pulling everything closer to my feet. i’d like a harry potter wand to stop everything for just a few weeks; let me out of the box of PTA programs, feel the saskatchewan without worrying about what it’s doing to my skin.
so we packed up our things and walked to school. it’s only a third of a mile; the walk is rather rockwellian actually in that we traverse winding trails under a canopy of mature 60′ trees and cross bridges over storm-drain creeks. sometimes we see a scampering fox or a roosting red-tailed hawk. those are special moments and we duly stop and marvel. ehh, it’s grade school. they can be late, i nod in agreement with myself.
but not today. no creature with an ounce of sense is out in this weather today. and as we tromp over the 1/2″ of powder snow that fell last night, thing 2 sings the theme song from “the simpsons” – “da-da-na NAna da na nananaN-Na…” while thing 3 cuddles in close to me, step-by-step, almost patting me and stroking me like a pet as he says, “i’m cold mama. hold me, mama.” and i lift him up and hug him so tight my eyes water. and i lie (denial again) and tell him when he asks why i’m crying that it’s because it’s cold outside that my eyes are watery. we all know why i’m teary. the time with these little people is fleeting.
but because i’m not 22, and my knee is bugging me and he weighs 45lbs now i can’t carry him all the way. i used to be able to, but he was younger and so was i … blahblahblah – no excuses. reality dictates i put him down even though neither of us want it. and so i put him down. my eyes still watery.
we crest the hill and walk to the doorway of school and thing 3 toddles in, turning his entire layered and bundled body in unison to look back at me with his batman hat almost covering his eyes and his yellow “football” mittens over his paws to wave and say, “i love you mama.” thing 2 is still singing the theme song and he tugs on my hand and asks me if he can hang back and walk in with his friends who just got off the bus. “of course!” i sniffle and say through a tight throat, unable to say what i want; unable to weep publicly for the moments that are stolen. and i feel it. i know it. there is no point in denying it. eventually they want to hang back with their friends all the time. this is life.