Our one car was in the shop today. This meant that after weeks of nearly ceaseless activity, we had a day of going absolutely nowhere beyond the neighborhood pool. This was quite wonderful, really -- enforced, temporary withdrawal from the outside world. And two things happened as a result:
1. Ian -- almost eleven years old -- had to ride his bike to swim team practice. This involves a 1.5 mile ride each way, crossing a major street. Daddy practiced the route with him the night before, I escorted him to the intersection and saw him safely across on the journey out, and he called me on his cell phone when arriving at and leaving the pool. (Yes, he has a bare-bones cell phone. It became a necessity when we let our land line go.)
He was apprehensive. So was I, although I didn't say so. But he did it. And tomorrow will be easier. In a summer of milestones, we've made another crossing. Hooray!
2. Walking home from the pool like little frying ants under the sun's determined glare, Caroline asked me to carry her. Now, she's five. A bit old to be toted like a baby, don't you think? A sardonic "You've got legs!" was on the tip of my tongue.
But I leaned down, scooped her up, and told her how far I could carry her. "Okay, Mama," she agreed. She wrapped her damp arms around my neck, laid her bleach-blonde head on my shoulder, and gently kissed it. And just for a moment, on the same day that one child took a leap forward, another one made time stand still.
Was it the last time I'll carry her like that -- even just for fifty yards? That's the bittersweetness of watching them grow and letting them go -- while some milestones arrive with great fanfare, many simply whisper their way in and out, so that we only know in retrospect that that moment -- photographed if we're lucky, but more likely not -- was a goodbye. And we wave at their disappearing smoke trail, knowing that their future looks too bright for them to ever think of looking back.