Nostalgia like an undertow

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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  1. Posted September 6, 2012 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    What a good reminder- especially for today. The girls go back to school- a first grader and a fourth grader. How did that happen!?

  2. Kate
    Posted September 6, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I find anticipatory grief so hard to handle. It is so difficult not to let it cloud a moment, especially where my kids are concerned!

  3. Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I really admire the way that you have created these secular traditions with your kids. I believe too in the importance and power of rituals and you inspire me to think about ways to make such repetitive magic with my family.

    Incidentally, I think about you every morning when my 3yo gets out his Life cereal. Their boxes currently have an ad for Legoland on them and he asks every morning if we can go and I think of your Legoland posts and say, “Yes, some day.”

  4. Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    That song… oh my. It gets me at even the slightest mention.

  5. Posted September 6, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    So glad you had this trip! Your writing is so lovely and it sounds divine.

  6. Posted September 6, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I was lucky enough to take my son to Legoland at exactly the right age…and I get sad when I think that he probably wouldn’t love it now like he did then. I love this line, “the truth is that being able to sense the throb of time under every minute makes my experience, while often painfully bittersweet, tremendously rich.” Couldn’t agree more.

  7. Amy
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Long time reader, and every time we go to Legoland I think of your posts. It really is a special place, isn’t it? We went just a few weeks ago, and I’m so glad our kids are still young enough to enjoy it. This time, though, I felt so sad as I realized that my older son is tall enough to ride alone on many of the attractions. Where does the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday he was too scared to ride even the Safari Car by himself? I tried to wipe away the tears when I realized he still wanted me to sit next to him. Oh, I wish it would last longer…