For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out. (James Baldwin)
The summer is ending, but the shift feels like more than just the weather. I can’t wait until winter, B. tells me on our way to the video store, so I can build a snowman with you in the park. His black-and-pink skater shoes skim jagged patches of grass meeting the sidewalk as he tries to balance along sharp edges, stopping to jump over cracks in the concrete. The sunlight glints off the hair on his legs, tiny shards of silken glass on limbs that were still curled up inside my womb five years ago. I think of his older brother at this age. I remember and repeat all the marveling: this wonder I feel at what it must be like to be a child, perched on the precipice between one-ness with the world and the unease that comes with self-consciousness.
I’m not ready for the boys to start school on Tuesday. It’s easy to talk about how the end is relatively near, how it’s nice to have a ten-year-old in 6th grade and (gasp!) a four-year-old in 2nd grade, but it’s hard sending them off into classrooms where those words are no longer an abstraction. I ask B. the color of his uniform shirt. He says dark mauve, and I want to know how the boy who wasn’t even born when his brother was his age learned what mauve is and where I was when that happened.
In Giddings Plaza, hearing an accordionist, B. has a revelation. Aha! I’ve got it! he declares. I want to be a musician when I grow up! Any other child would leave it at that, but B. goes on: Just a minute ago, I had no idea what I wanted to be. Now that I know, I can get on with my life. It occurs to me not only that my children have been seamlessly and silently going about with growing up — was I ever paying attention? — but also that they might know themselves better than I ever have known myself.
It’s more than the trite how did they grow up so fast when I wasn’t willing to slow down?, but I don’t know how to write that.