This morning I waved goodbye to a fourth-grader and a first-grader as they climbed the steps of the elementary school bus on the last day of school.
Day skips into day skips into weeks. A few hours sleep in between, no more. Are we here already?
Soccer tryouts, three days in a row, not just playing with his friends anymore. “Jack” wants to take his game up a notch, see if he can do better, learn more, compete. We pile into the car, drive for miles, he runs hard, works harder, comes off the field drenched in sweat and says, “Mom, that was fun!”
In between the tryouts, I take my daughter to the drugstore to purchase makeup for her dance recital–make that recitals. Foundation, blush, eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, and I find a YouTube video to teach me how to apply dance makeup to Asian eyes. “Emmie” is no longer content with a little girl’s ballet lessons; she’s expanded to hip-hop now. She travels the distance from seven to fifteen with the change of a costume. She sets down her Cinderella trumpet, I unpin her bun and she juts out a hipbone to lyrics like, “I got freaky, freaky baby, I was chillin’ with my ladies.”
Somehow, amidst the chaos, I find time to get rear-ended on a busy Boston street. The auto insurance companies come through, figure out the details as the back end of my car slowly disintegrates driving from home to end-of-year school picnics, theaters and soccer fields. Look, another piece of the car is peeling off the frame.
“Mommy, can I have an end-of-elementary school party?” Jack asks me.
When did you get old enough for this?
Any minute now, they’ll step off the school bus, pounds of artwork and papers they’ve never told me they’ve written in their hands. Emmie will shout to me the name of her second-grade teacher, which friends will be in her class, and we’ll speculate about the year to come in sixty-second increments for the rest of the afternoon.
Jack will run from the bus with a whoop, drop his backpack in the middle of the driveway and pick up a ball of some sort. He’ll play outside until I force him into the car to go to his sister’s dance recital rehearsal. We won’t have any conversations about his new teacher, because he’s done with that sort of structure. He’ll be in middle school next year, changing classes, learning from different teachers for different subjects, acting like the bigger kid he is.
This is the point at which I usually complain over the coming lack of summer writing time. I’m going to skip that particular lament this year, however. It’s true that somehow, I scheduled my kids for only two overlapping weeks of camp. (No idea how I did that.) But watching my son gravitate to his friends and approach hard work (well, some forms of hard work) with relish, and observing my daughter’s recent, frequent comments about boys, pop culture and the world around her have made it impossible for me to ignore that these kids are growing up. So I intend to spend a lot of this summer just being with my kids–while they’ll still let me. I’ll write in the early morning, or in the evening, or whenever I can. Because as a wise friend once told me (you know who you are), the writing will always be there, but the kids will grow up and move away, on to other people, to other parts of their lives. Which is how it should be.
In the meantime, I’ll be greeting my middle-schooler and my second-grader when they step off the bus this afternoon. And try to stop time for just a minute or two so I can catch my breath.