Monday, May 23, 2011

She sat beside me... we watched the excited four and five year olds run through the sprinklers. The brightly colored stomp rockets flew high up into the perfect, almost-summer late morning sky.

We’d gotten to know each other a little bit as the year had progressed, the only commonality between us a child and a grand-child in the same pre-school class.

I’d overheard her talking to other young mothers about things I’d experienced a long time ago…potty training their younger children, who has the best prices for Pampers and wipes, new baby bottles on the market that really work well for colic-y babies. I’m sure I had a sentimental smile on my face as I listened to snippets of these conversations.

But now we were sitting quietly together on a red metal bench in the dappled shade of one of the school’s courtyard trees. Her son shouted with joy as a string of bubbles left his bright blue wand, my Grandlittle laughed as a red, white and blue beachball bounced on her shining blonde hair.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the young mother put her head down. As I turned toward her I saw tears falling onto the smooth skin of her shorts-clad legs. She turned her head away, but after a few moments had passed, she glanced up at me...her tear-filled brown eyes radiating total and complete sorrow.

“Does this get better?” she asked in a quiet, shaky voice. “You’re a grandma. Does it get easier watching how quickly the time goes? How can this be his last day of preschool? How can he be going to kindergarten this fall?”

I didn’t answer her for a moment. I couldn’t. I was trying to swallow back my own tears. Mr. Jenny and I have both been struggling with the fact that our youngest Grand is going to school this fall. Empty nest the second time around feels even more poignant.

I put my hand on the weeping womans arm. I opened my mouth to offer comfort...offer hope that, yes indeed, time will slow down, but I'm a pretty rotten liar and I couldn’t get that false reassurance out.

She spoke again, “Tell me it gets easier. That it hurts less as time goes on.”

I searched my heart further for magic words. I had none. I searched my soul again for solace, but nothing came to me. I could not think of what to say.

Just then her son ran over to her. She dried her eyes and gave my hand a squeeze before she ran off to blow bubbles.

It felt surreal. Children and sprinklers and bubbles are timeless, aren't they? It could have been the blonde heads of my own children shining in the sunlight. It could have been their joyous shouts I hear so very clearly from my memories soundtrack.

My sweet Mo ran over after a bit and broke my musings. Isn’t the distraction of a small child a blessing? The rest of the last day of preschool was filled with popsicles and pretzels, gathering year-end papers, and driving home to the happy babbling of a cheerful child.

But now my house is quiet and I am left with my thoughts.

What advice would I have given that young mother? I still don’t know. I find myself thinking of the lyrics of a Joni Mitchell song that made me cry when my own children were young…

Yesterday a child came out to wonder,
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar,
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder,
And tearful at the falling of a star.
Then the child moved ten times round the seasons,
Skated over ten clear frozen streams,
Words like, when youre older, must appease him,
And promises of someday make his dreams.
And the seasons they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came,
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

Maybe I should have told her, “Make your memories while you can, hold him while you can, hug him while you can and listen, listen, listen with your heart every single moment of his childhood.”

Or maybe I should have just cried with her in the warm, dappled sunlight.

Woman to woman. Mother to mother. Sad heart to sad heart.

And then maybe I should have just told her to hold on tightly to the ride, because it's fast and it's crazy and it's over before you know it…

And the seasons they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came,
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

post signature


People Who Know Me Would Say: said...

I could see your tears as you lived it, and, then again, as you wrote about it.

Could you see mine as you read it?

vivian said...

great post Jenny. I'm amazed at how fast the time has gone by... kids are getting married and having their own babies.. and Im getting fatter and older. and its scarey to think in 20 years I'll be 70.. and 20 years ago there were days that, while struggling to care for 4 children I made the mistake of thinking I couldnt wait for those 20 years to fly by! Now I feel like it all needs to slowwwww dowwwwn! its all going tooo fast.. and I have no control of anything anymore!! lol! my new thing is "I'm just along for the ride!"
Have a great week!! I want to say I hope the time goes by slowly.. but I like monday to turn into friday as quickly as possible!!

Lynn said...

So now we're all crying:@) Funny, time does go fast and seems to go faster the older you get. Can't believe my 'boys' are 26 & 27. I'm with Vivian, just buckling my seatbelt and trying to enjoy the ride!

Anonymous said...

Why am I crying into my cereal! Could it be because I am living this speedy life too.

Jocelyn said... you have me crying to!!!! I love this heart touching and so very true....

Evan seems so self sufficient now, and Gavin will soon be entering pre k and we too will be empty nesters again!!!

Time does go by so quickly!!!

Love you sweet friend!!!

noexcuses said...

May I join the blubbering party? I don't know if I would have done anything different than you. My youngest is graduating high school in two days. It does go by fast, but I feel good that I played with them as much as possible.

Amazing post, Jenny!

Amanda said...

I'm crying three! Oh Jenny you expressed this so well.

La said...

Oh Jenny, what a beautifully poignant moment to share.

My son's pre-school teacher told me each phase of your child's life is wonderful, different, but wonderful. Thank you for taking me back to that time if only for a moment.

Sending hugs your way ~ La

Terry said...

I think about this all the time. Brian will be getting his driving permit in three months. Emily just turned 13. Before I know it they'll be grown and gone, out living lives of their own. I miss the little ones they used to be. I wish I'd paid more attention back then. :0/

summersundays-jw said...

Oh, how I feel your pain, yet I still find myself rushing through life, worrying about tomorrow. Not sure I have the ability to "stop & smell the roses". We had terrible storms in our area last night -- so many deaths & lifes destroyed. My goal today is to "stop & smell the roses". Think I'll call the g'kids before they go to school. Have a good week. Jan

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

There isn't any way to put a nice light on it, is there? Life flies past us. Guess we just have to accept it.

And savour the moment, of course.


Julie Kwiatkowski Schuler said...

Matthew lost his first baby tooth :(

Arkansas Patti said...

Painfully beautiful post. Yours and Joni's words do sum it up perfectly.

Willoughby said...

Oh Jenny, now you're going to make me cry and I'm not wearing waterproof mascara today.

Of all the things you prepare for as a parent, watching your kids get older is the one that takes you by surprise. I don't think there is any way to know beforehand how bittersweet it will be.

My oldest graduates from high school this week and it's weighing heavy on me. I can't believe all those years have gone by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday he was clinging to my side and pleading with me not to leave him at preschool.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Jenny this has touched my heart. My oldest turned 32 yesterday and I am looking at life and wondering..where did the time go? I am so blessed to finally have that Grandchild and yet I feel like its all moving too fast! It does, so you are right, hold on tight and enjoy the ride. The circle game! hugs, Linda

Pondside said...

Ah Jenny - you've got us weeping from coast to coast. Today is my son's 31st birthday and I've just spoken to him across the three hour time difference. I'd have told the young mother that it doesn't get any easier, but that we get better at savoring every minute. I only see my grandsons a few times a year, but we skype often, and then I bawl afterwards. This isn't the relationship I thought I'd have with grandchildren - I loved/love the gift of motherhood so much and was looking forward to more (greedy!, aren't I?)

21 Wits said...

Oh I can so relate to this!..and crying is good for us...especially shared tears! Never pass that up! I am brave at the moment because we have 4 young grandbabies, the youngest turning 1 on July 31, but my two oldest 1 kindergarten and his brother in 4th grade! Oh no! Yes the time is so short....hubby and I just spoke of that yesterday (of course they have a bit different feel then we do)but we so have to live every moment in life....and be eager for the new twists and roads of all our loved ones...great words of wisdom you offered us Jenny...thanks!

Ames said...

Ok you made me cry. I was just telling my daughter as I was holding my grandaughter...where did the time go? I don't remember Nicholas' turning 2,or 3,or 4,or 5,or 6,or even 7 and now he is going to be 9? I know I was there. Life is a blurr. Grab those memories and take lot's of pictures along the way. I hope I am not getting Alzheimer's. I don't want to forget. Ok I am still crying.
Today is the last day of school here. I think I'll drive over and have some grammo time! Hugs!~Ames

Anonymous said...

blubbering here too!!!

Busy Bee Suz said...

No, it never gets easier, but we do learn to grasp each and every moment.
Have a beautiful day Jenny.

Leovi said...

Beautiful and touching story. Life is time and the clock is ticking, but life goes on and the girl with the bubbles will soon be sitting on the bench watching his daughter. Greetings.

Susan Anderson said...

You said it all, Jenny.

And I felt very word.

Hugs all around, for every one of us...


Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Oh, Jenny, I know so wellhow you and this young mother feel! I'll never forget going to my cousins wedding wehn my son was only two and it was the first time I left him home with a babysitter. The bride and groom danced to the song "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof, at the wedding and I cried so hard at the lines "Is this that boy at play?" My son was only 2, but already I could feel time flying away and that before I turned around he'd be married! Fast forward thirty years and he is now the married father of two little boys and again my heartstrings are being pulled.
We can not stop time -- only cherish each moment as much as we can! {{ hugs}}}

Judie said...

Jenny, we do the best we can, but there comes a time when it isn't up to us any more. We both know this.

Amy said...


Just this morning I was lamenting how big they are growing. Just today I was wishing I could stop time. And then you had to go and write this, and break my heart all over again.

H said...

I'm not sure what to write. So many others have said it before me. My youngest turns 17 tomorrow. One more year and he'll be off to join his brother in Uni and then the house is going to seem so empty with just me rattling around in it.

Dazee Dreamer said...

I would have told her it does get better. But then, maybe I'm just a mean woman. Little kids are hard, but they grow and give you grandchildren.

I like having me time. Is this a flaw in me. I hope not. Because sometimes I'm so tired of it all, I just want to sleep.

sorry, off on my tangent now.

Wanda..... said...

I feel lucky and blessed to have always had my 9 grandchildren live so close, all within walking distance. Now the happy marriage plans of one, with a move out of state soon, is very Bittersweet!

Very lovely post, Jenny!

Brenda said...

Oh yes, I find it even harder watching my grandchildren grow so fast. The youngest turns 3 this year and our oldest grandchild turned 11 this past April. He spent a lot of time with us when he was a baby and toddler while his parents worked and I just set and look at him sometimes remembering that same face on such a little tyke.

Sue said...

I think those of us with a few years under our belts can all relate to this. It does go so fast. It does semm like yesterday. I wish I had known then just how sweet and easy the days were and how much more difficult they get when kids get older. The other thing I thought of as I read this was how lucky I was to be like the young mother. I got to be there for all of the firsts and the lasts even when I went back to work. With so many moms having to or wanting to work these days...I wonder if the years will even go faster for them.

Lourie said...

My baby is graduating kindergarten and my oldest baby is graduating 8th grade. :( Bittersweet. Great post, Jenny!

Slamdunk said...

Lovely post and thoughts Jenny.

I think about our daughters last few days of preschool, and her older brother finishing up 4th grade and am at a loss to understand where the time has gone.

I am not sure there is the perfect advice or reply to the woman; each stage in a child's development is a blessing and should be treated as such.

Vicki/Jake said...

Boy does this hit home...
Hold on tight my friend.

J said...

Aw, this even made me tear up, Jenny. This is probably my favorite post from you yet.

Bonnie said...

Hi Jenny,
I often forward my email alerts of your newest posts to my work email. I can read them at work but can't comment so I'm catching up on commenting.

I read this post the day I had just dropped my oldest son off for his last day of 7th grade. I drove away think "How can this be his last day of 7th grade... he's going to be an 8th grader..then high school! I know exactly how this mother felt. They just keep growing, and we know they are slipping from our grip, so to speak. I love the words to the song. So true.
Thank you for sharing this.