For the past few mornings, when M has come downstairs into the kitchen with Woofy-Paws in his arms, I have been overwhelmed by the desire to hug him and listen to him chat in his squeaky 5-year-old voice for hours. I wrap my arms around him and have to force myself to let go as he squirms and wiggles away to go play with his brother.
In these quick minutes, I am paying attention......to the wispy hairs scratching at his ears and needing to be trimmed, at the skinny legs poking out of his yellow pajama shorts, at his scrawny arms and chest inside the Perry the Platypus pajama top, at the softness of his skin, his flat feet, the space of two missing teeth in his bottom gum.
I know full well there is nothing babyish about him anymore since he is as tall as some second graders, but I see my baby. I look at N, my rising middle schooler who is a mere 2.5 inches shorter than me, and see my baby. I look at gangly G, with his adult teeth in his 7-year-old mouth, and see my baby.
I am beginning to think I may not have as easy a time transitioning to all 3 kids being at school full-time as I thought I would. Freedom sounds good until I remember that it also means closing the door completely to something I've been doing for over a decade.
The thought keeps going through my head, "I didn't even enjoy it as much as I could have. Why did I not enjoy it as much as I could have? Why was I asleep?"
I start to feel a deep sadness and try to talk myself out of it, reminding myself that the goal is to see them grow up, that my ancestral mothers' greatest desire was to see their children live to adulthood, that the only way to keep them small for eternity is for them to die. These thoughts are a great antidote to depression since they are so up-lifting.
Henry David Thoreau comes to mind next. I recently posted my senior yearbook stuff on this blog, where I had used a HDT quote: Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.
Even though Thoreau was talking about living in the woods, I thought enough of his sentiment to know it was pretty important, that he was a pretty wise individual.
(Of course, I also used a quote from Pump Up the Volume's (1990) Hard Harry which is proof I was a fairly regular teenager.)
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
Isn't that all any of us wants to do, to live deeply, to experience life, to feel the fullness of it even in its meanness and sublimity?
In order to sink myself even further into bittersweet sadness, I think of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, about Emily who shares infinite wisdom with the reader after her death and who cannot bear to be a witness to her own life and its memories after death. Living beings cannot see life as the dead do; they are so hurried by living and time's passing.
My heart aches as I read Emily's lines....
"Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me...."
"I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another."
"Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you."
"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?---every, every minute?"
And I know her answer. I would know her answer even if I'd never read the play.