Big events – birthdays, first and last days of school, annual holidays and gatherings – are signposts of the singular direction of time.
The passage of time pings at me most in the small moments. The heartbreaking, bittersweet, laughter-through-tears milestones sneak up and make us all too aware of the passings. Revisiting old photos and videos of the kids remind us their faces are slimming and getting angular. Teeth change. They change. Their little voices slowly deepen. They are now shoulder-high, my boys, and my daughter not far behind.
I wonder, now that they can get things off shelves that only yesterday were too high, how to give them strength as they grow up and grow away, and we grow apart and together in weird ways. Milestones are coming fast these days, the lasts more painful with the youngest, the firsts more painful with the older ones.
These relentless steps over thresholds can only be described as nonsecular.
There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me
My boys turned nine-and-a-half this week. This number feels old, as did seven. As did two. It’s all bigger. Their problems are bigger, their worries are bigger, their compassion and talents and wonder are bigger. So are the risks and rewards and consequences. Their curiosity is endless.
They see the world and are making sense of it, so much as anyone can, and they are concerned. They see the prejudice and hatred, around the world and in our backyard. They feel old enough to know better and too young to do anything about it. They are so young and also so far beyond their little years, sometimes by nature, sometimes by the “nurturing” of the world. In some ways they were born middle-aged, in some ways all they still want to do is be wild and free.
Such is nine-and-a-half.
Now I’m towing my car, there’s a hole in the roof
My possessions are causing me suspicion but there’s no proof
In the paper today tales of war and of waste
But you turn right over to the T.V. page
I got glasses. Not readers, I don’t need those at this time, but my astigmatism was making distance viewing a nightmare, which is only a problem when I need to see stuff that’s farther from my face than a book, computer, or my knitting. So, kind of a big deal, especially if I don’t want to drive into trees or I’d like a theater production to be something other than really jazzy blurs.
There is a small amount of vanity involved in getting glasses. I’m not one of those people who, when they share their age, gets surprised responses. I look exactly my age, and that’s fine. I’m not one for putting Botox or fillers in my face, and despite religious use of sunscreen, I have lines and freckles. My face is changing. I feel a shift. Mostly downward, certainly tectonic.
And now I can see it better.
Now I’m walking again to the beat of a drum
And I’m counting the steps to the door of your heart
Only shadows ahead barely clearing the roof
Get to know the feeling of liberation and release
My daughter made me a bagel, as a nice surprise when I got felled by the flu. She toasted it herself, which is not new, but what is new is that she got it out of the toaster herself, unafraid. She did it. And she was proud. Then, because we had a hint of spring for two days, she decided to learn how to ride her bike without training wheels. Now, the girl hasn’t been on her bike since September, so we talked with her about persevering and coping with struggle and the victory of the agony of defeat or whatever. And wouldn’t you know it, she got it after five minutes, needing only a “push” to get her started. The next day, similarly beautiful weather, and she figured out how to do it without a push, with a little guidance from her older brother.
And that’s that. No more baby bikes. No more training wheels. This one hurt a little, maybe because we’re crossing the borders from Little into not-so-little.
Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won’t win
I want my family to stay steadfast in the face of a world that even in kindness moves quickly and unsteadily. It’s hard to jump into it sometimes. But we don’t want to move beyond. We want to move through. And as much as the kids inevitably get into phases that I wish were absolutely over, I don’t want to lose a day like this. I don’t want to.