A couple of weeks ago, we had one of those empty Sunday afternoons that I have come to prize above all others. But in the moment, I was not prizing anything. Everybody was cranky, pissy, annoyed. The sky was spitting rain. I asked Whit and Grace what they wanted to do, because the only thing that was non-negotiable was that we had to get out of the house. They didn’t want to do anything. They certainly didn’t want to do anything together.
Fine. I made an executive decision. Whit needed some more Rotten School books to read anyway, so off we went to the library. Luckily the main branch is open on Sunday afternoons. We rode up the elevator to the third floor and I watched in wonder as the library worked its magic. Extraordinary. They were almost immediately calm, engrossed. We had just been talking about the Sheep in a Jeep picture books and Whit wanted to see them, so we headed to the picture book section.
These days, we don’t usually set up shop in the picture book section. But that day we did. We found Sheep in a Jeep, read it, and then Grace and Whit both turned to the shelves. Whit pulled out a stack of Dr. Seuss books, and Grace found several old favorites to revisit. We sat together at a small round table and leafed through books. I looked up.
And instantly found myself blinking away tears. Oh, the places you’ll go, my newly-minted eight year old. Yes, the places you’ll go. I can imagine them, can see them beginning to shimmer on the horizon, those places, away from home, away from this moment, away from me. You’re going, and I am waving, and I couldn’t be prouder.
We stayed at the library for a long time. I personally adore picture books and am glad to see that Grace and Whit still wanted to immerse themselves in them. There was no scoffing about “baby books” or impatience or frustration. There was just the quiet, suffused with contentment, the flipping of pages, the whispers of parents and squeaks of babies and mumbles of toddlers.
Then we went to the playground outside the park to play for a bit before heading home for dinner. The rain had stopped and the sky was a thick, dense plane of gray cloud. Grace and Whit played together, laughing, making up games.
I sat on the swings and watched them play. They leapt from rock to rock, chased each other around the deserted playground, and made up games together. I’ve written before about my intense pride when I watch my children playing in creative, unstructured ways, about how I’m probably more thrilled by creative play than I am by conventional accomplishments.
I swung and watched them, and before I knew it my cheeks were wet with tears again. How much longer will they want to spend a Sunday afternoon with me, at the library, at the playground? Sure, not long. The familiar awareness of how short this time is gripped me, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Somehow my keen sense of the fleeting nature of this moment is both immensely familiar and, still, so powerful that it brings me to my knees. My nostalgia for this time in my own life – even as I live it – is nothing short of overwhelming.
I swung back and forth, watching them laugh and jump, unable to hear what they were saying to each other, feeling tears run down my face. Oh, the places they’ll go. Oh, the places they are already going.
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