07 June 2008

Golden years

There is produce rolling around my dining room floor (yes, apples, oranges, a banana)--don't ask.

My mother arrives today.

The son graduates next week.

I play hostess to...well, everyone.

(It's ok. I'm good at playing hostess. I can do it with my eyes closed. I can produce food and drink almost without thinking. Not to mention produce produce rolling around my dining room floor. Seriously. Don't ask.)

The salient point is:

My son is graduating and going off to high school.

What now seems like a very long time ago, but wasn't so long ago, I used to take the kids to Target or Toys R Us, usually in search of a present for someone's birthday party, or sometimes just supplies for summer. We would buy bouncy balls and small toys, bubble blowing materials and PlayDoh, a new game, a Thomas the Tank engine part, craft materials for the long, hot days.

I had cause to go into Target recently. I was struck by nostalgia, a longing for the smell and texture of PlayDoh.

I was struck by grief.

It goes so quickly, and I knew it would, that time from wild, wiggly baby to pimply, opinionated teenager. I accept that, and I've always known that each age has its unique challenges and unique rewards. It's just that you can never get back those moments when you find there is a new Thomas the Tank engine, that the baby negotiates for a tricycle or a new stuffed animal.

Those moments when everyone jumps into the wading pool and yells, "OW! The water is so COLD!"

So suddenly, you are standing in Target, and your objective is Stridex, not a random toy with which to surprise the kids. You can't make their eyes light up with a new ball.

No, I don't miss potty training or dirty diapers. No, I don't miss car seats or high chairs.

But I do miss just tossing two kids into the car and heading out to the park to ride the little train, arriving early before it got too hot, feeding the ducks in the lake, walking to the tiny zoo where the mynah always yelled, "Hello, Albert!" Where the daughter, still a toddler, was scared to death when the great horned owl turned to her and said in a VERY loud voice, "WHOOO!"

"Mommy!" she wailed.

"Everyone is getting lunch," I told her. "He was wondering if you were bringing his mouse to him."

She still talks about that.

Today, the kids and I were culling books from their bookcases, choosing which ones to save for later days and possibly for their future children, which ones to pass on to others, and it was another moment to mourn.

They will never again ask me to read the special books we had for Christmas. I don't read to them before bed anymore. I haven't read aloud since we finished the seventh Harry Potter book last summer. I don't sing to them before bed anymore. It used to be that they were allowed to choose three songs that I would sing to them, every night, without fail.

Old MacDonald or
Reuben, Reuben or
I've Been Working on the Railroad or
Do-Re-Mi or
Yankee Doodle or maybe
The Brave Old Duke of York

The favorites changed from time to time.

I have friends who are the mothers of toddlers, friends who are anxious for their offspring to produce grandchildren, friends whose children are the age of mine.

I can't fathom grandchildren. My mother-in-law became a great-grandmother for the first time on my most recent birthday. I can't fathom that either. Someday, I suppose, grandchildren will be appealing, but they certainly aren't right now.

Knowing these days were coming, restless in my own right, I started recrafting a life of my own six years ago. Even so, I'm a little surprised by the hole in my heart left by the absence of these small things we used to do together.

Go listen to some good music: "Golden Years" from the album Best of Bowie by David Bowie.

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