Friday, April 23, 2010
Last week I felt old. I sat visiting with a friend as we watched our little girls (my youngest and her oldest, both four) arabesque and curtsy in ballet class. Her younger son, with his head bent bashfully down and eyes lifted in eager expectation, was sending a message that he'd like to chat with me. Little boys are especially yummy, so I was more than willing to strike up a conversation.
"Hey, that's a cool backpack," I eased in. "Whatcha got in there?" Apparently I said just the right thing. His grin broadened and he plopped down in front of me, grabbed the zipper with his dimpled hands, and pulled the bag open. I smiled at the familiar contents. It was full of bright yellow dump trucks, diggers and excavators. He delighted in showing me how this dump truck could tilt and that excavator could scoop.
My heart felt a funny little ache as I realized that I was the older mom, looking back on life with little, little ones. As I shared with his mom the fascination that my boys used to have with all things big, yellow and scoopy, it dawned on me that they've outgrown it. Drew outgrew it quite a while ago, obviously, but I'm not sure when it happened with Aidan. I missed the end.
I recalled taking Drew to construction sites and feeling that it was a grand adventure. We'd bring along our sack lunches, just the two of us, and nibble and crumble in the car while watching the machines at work. But one day we stopped doing that. I'm not sure when that day was. And it didn't happen on purpose, it just did.
Eventually another boy came along, and I delighted in once again hearing terms like "articulated" and "telescopic" flow effortlessly from the mouth of a child still in pull-ups. The construction site visits were less frequent than they had been with Drew (as outings tend to be with three in tow), but there was still the pointing and shouting and lingering when anything big and yellow was nearby.
Along came number four. (Pause for dramatic emphasis. Oh, wait -- my mistake -- there's no such thing as pause with four . . . .) And life was lively and fast and up and down. And somewhere in there, something quietly ended. The something that makes a kid jump up and down over a cement mixer. Many other things seamlessly worked their way into our lives, making the ending things slip away unnoticed. And here I now found myself watching my baby, all ready for kindergarten ("How many more days, Mommy?"), twirl in her big sister's leotard.
As the Mozart strain faded, I helped with the last of the dump trucks. The ballerinas zipped out the door, shrieking as only ballerinas can shriek. My little friend scurried after his mama, she with a babe in arms and a wee sister in hand. I picked up a stray ballet shoe, grabbed my keys, and slipped quietly out of that silent space.
Photo: Drew, age 4