Oh the places you’ll go

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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.

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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.

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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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14 Comments

  1. Posted January 24, 2013 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Nothing like tears before 7am! I love everything about this post! The library, obviously! and this line, “I’m probably more thrilled by creative play than I am by conventional accomplishments.” is so very important. I wish more people felt this way…

  2. Posted January 24, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    as always, grateful for your poetic storytelling, capturing my exact sentiments about the passage of time. this year I am intending to focus less on how I am failing them (and my fantasy about how childhood should be) and more on these precious moments (as they come – imperfect and holy).

  3. Posted January 24, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    I am celebrating the birth of my EIGHTEEN year old today … 18 !! I have a post already queued up for his graduate day … and the title is … “Oh the Places You’ll Go” — I will be standing and proudly waving, for sure!

  4. Posted January 24, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I love this! Though not the focus of this post, it brings to mind one of my most astounding learnings (and re-learnings, and re-learnings) from parenting. Expectations are worth nothing. On a day that looks to be cranky and dismal, wonder emerges. And those beautiful blue sky days when nothing should go wrong and delight is teed up, it might be terrific. Or rotten. Who knows? And the not knowing is why I implore myself to stay present when things are good – nobody can predict when things will tip the other way. And knowing that in dark moments, light is around the corner. Also, I think of the various blessings and, well, curses is too strong – let’s say challenges – of having our kids far apart is seeing Teddy & Nicholas melt shamelessly into the couch, and our sides, listening to us read to their little sibs. Yesterday I saw all four kids heaped on and around Katie as she read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and they all leaned into the warmth of the moment and the story.

  5. Posted January 24, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Tears. Tears and goosebumps. So poignant and real–I can absolutely related to your Sunday afternoon. I had the same one on Saturday. xoxo

  6. Posted January 24, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Love the way you tell this story in pictures and words. And I have good news for you: the love of picture books lasts forever. I can STILL get 20 year old Jack to sit down and look at picture books with me. I gave him one for Christmas last year in fact. Your photo of Whit with Dr. Seuss reminds me of my favorite quote of his: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” xo

  7. Posted January 24, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    precious moments of immeasurable wealth – all without benefit of instruction or adult management – all within the safety net of their mother’s arms. absolute best of life!

  8. Posted January 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I love the picture books, too. There are very few things that hold the memories that my children’s favorite picture books hold.
    You are so right to relish the fleeting moments. I’m learning that though each childhood stage quickly passes by, it is replaced by a new, equally wonderfuly phase of parenting.

  9. Posted January 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I love the idea of library as panacea, the way that it drew them in and then fortified them for an afternoon of creative play. Behold, the power of books! (And of moms who know just what their kids need and when they need it.) xo

  10. Posted January 24, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    You write so evocatively Lindsey! I love Kristen’s comment “I love the idea of library as panacea, the way that it drew them in and then fortified them for an afternoon of creative play.” The library has always been a kind of panacea for me and continues to be although in different ways now from when I was a child. As a child is was my refuge and now it also arms me with inspiration for engaging with our world. The library has truly been a great friend to me.

  11. Posted January 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    One of my new favorites!! I love this because it has happened to me- the disappointment is a Sunday gone wrong and the magic of it all coming back together. Libraries are my favorite places. You capture this so perfectly!!

  12. Posted January 25, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I love what Pamela says about the magic of a day gone wrong and then comes back together again, like a boomerang, and what Kristen says about mothers having an ability to know what their children need, when they need it. I am JUST at the beginning of picture books, but it’s often what Abra and I do between The Witching Hour of 5 and 6 pm, read books together. It’s often the only time she’ll let me hold her (not a cuddler, that one). Also, can I just say how LUCKY you are to have what looks like such a nice library in your neighborhood?

  13. Posted January 25, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Ohmyheart, Lindsey.

    Chills, tears. All of the good stuff.

    Love this, my friend, so very much.

    xo

  14. Posted January 26, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    You write beautifully. I have been reading from page to page, you tell a story with your words, I am totally engrossed. Your children are very lucky to have you as their mom.
    Nikki