I can’t explain exactly why our now-annual trip to Legoland is so special, but it is. A light veil of magic that descends on the three of us the minute we walk out of the airport in California and it floats around our shoulders until we get home. On the taxi to the airport in Boston, as we set out on a long day of travel, Grace announced that she looked forward to this trip as much as she did to Christmas. And on the second day, as we discussed the new Lego-themed hotel that is going to open this year and whether we should consider staying there, Whit brought tears to my eyes when he said, “Well, it would be cool, probably, but I really like our tradition the way it is.”
They are as sentimental as I am, these two, and as wedded to ritual. One of my firmest beliefs about parenting is that traditions, large and small, have huge power to ground children. This trip is now one of the central rituals around which our family year spins.
Cruelly, the days of our short visit to California seem to accelerate every year. This summer they passed in a blinding blaze of ice cream and swimming pool jumps and rides and laughter. Our final day in the park I could not get Colin Hay singing just be here now (from his beautiful song, Waiting for my Real Life to Begin) out of my head. I rode behind the children on the safari ride, watching them more than I did the incredibly detailed Lego animals, fighting to stay inside my own experience. Nostalgia pulled at me like an undertow, and I struggled not to slide into full-blown grief for a trip that wasn’t even over yet.
This is a familiar pattern for me, and it was a part of my time at Legoland this year more keenly than ever. It is so easy for me to slip into anticipatory grief about a moment being over even as I inhabit it. My awareness of time’s passage grows more and more acute, and it is often an effort not to let the s0rrow of that unavoidable reality overwhelm me. I remind myself that my days are short here, and that I risk squandering them by surrendering to a morass of relentless missing and sadness. At the same time, I thank the universe for my own particular emotional wiring, because the truth is that being able to sense the throb of time under every minute makes my experience, while often painfully bittersweet, tremendously rich.
And I blink back my tears and smile when Grace and Whit barrage me with how they noticed for the first time that the giraffe’s head swivels, and then follow them as they run to the next ride. Looking around as I try to keep up with them, drinking in with my eyes and nose and ears – with my whole self – this magic place. This golden moment in my life. Yes, it is about to end. As hard as I try, I cannot get around that. So the best I can do is be here now.
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