I have had Adlai Stevenson’s line about “your days are short here” in my head recently. I love his whole speech, in particular those last lines, and have written about them before. But it’s specifically the notion of something drawing to a close that feels salient to me right now.
I can’t get the line out of my head.
Our days are short here.
There are surely fewer days with all four of us under one roof ahead than behind us. So many years have gone, rippling behind us in a blur of bathtimes and walks and hockey games and car rides. I’m so thankful for the details I’ve recorded, here and in my enormous photo albums, but still, there’s so much I wish I could do over again. Of course I can’t, and that’s the very essence of life: you get one go around. It’s in my essential wiring to be struck dumb by the heartbreak of that, but the flip side of that characteristic is, I believe, how fundamentally open I am to receiving joy and beauty in the most ordinary experiences.
Our days are short here. This season, which broke open with a colicky newborn and a rainstorm in late October 2002, which felt, for so long, endless, is drawing to a close. Grace is almost my height and Whit is catching up fast. They’re independent in so many ways, strong and opinionated and funny. They can cook dinner for us, walk home from school and let themselves in, put themselves to bed. I can see the adults they are becoming. I love them, a lot, but I also like them.
I considered a book project several years ago that focused on the “new season” of parenting kids in their adolescence. The first paragraph was this:
In between conference calls last Tuesday I walked to the mailbox a few blocks from my house. I passed the park where I had strolled with both of my children, spent countless hours watching them learn to navigate the slides and then the monkey bars, coached micro-soccer on Saturday mornings for years. I looked at the mothers crouched in the sandbox and at the toddlers making their clumsy way around the structure and felt a pang so acute of all that was gone I had to stop and catch my breath. That time, when empty days without school or commitments unfurled in front of me, seems like another country. My children still play on playgrounds, but I know those days themselves are numbered.
Even that already feels like a different country of its own now! I feel as though I have taken an extremely long flight and have lost track of what day it is. I’ve emerged from the terminal into the bright light of a foreign land and I’m blinking into the sun, trying to get my bearings. I am staring at empty nesters and children who are getting close to driving age. All these years have through my fingers like so much sand, and no amount of grasping slowed their passage.
Tonight I’m struck by the sorrow of that, though I’m aware, also, of the deep, gorgeous, messy joys that have filled every day in the enormous gulf between my first days as a mother and now.
My days are short here. And while my children still want to come sit next to me in bed to read, I’m going to wholeheartedly enjoy it, trying not to wonder if it’s the last time.
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