My hands tingle with pain. I can’t feel my toes. My nose is numb. It’s time to go home.
“We can’t go inside yet!” Katie implores. “We might not have weather like this for another five years! I want to keep sledding!”
Nothing she can say will sway me. I trudge up the hill toward home, willing my frozen feet to move.
Then Cooper chimes in, “In five years, I won’t even be home for snow days.”
The truth paralyzes more than the bitter winter wind. Cooper’s well-timed retort buys them both a few minutes more in the sleet/ice/snow.
(In fact, we’d get more wintry mix that same week, but Texas kids never take snow and ice for granted.)
All that snow has melted, and spring has officially, if begrudgingly, begun. Yet I can’t shake the chill of Cooper’s words. His time at home is slipping away.
He’s filed his degree plan for high school. He’s selected his freshman classes.
We’re experiencing the “last” of everything related to middle school. The last UIL band competition and the last track meet will eventually yield to the last bus ride home, and then we’ll have exactly four more years.
It’s the kind of countdown that makes me want to gather up all the previous days that I wished away. You know the ones.
“I can’t wait until my baby sleeps through the night.”
“I can’t wait until my toddler is potty-trained.”
“I can’t wait until my child can read.”
It’s the kind of countdown that keeps me awake at night, keeping him company while he finishes homework.
We don’t talk much during those late hours. He solves quadratic equations and studies Spanish vocabulary at the kitchen table while I grade papers, fold laundry, wash dishes, read — and try not to wish away the late nights.
When he does pause from his studies, it’s usually precipitated with, “Oh! Momma, I meant to tell you ...” followed by a joke he heard or a song he wants me to listen to or an observation about the complicated middle school social structure.
How many of those moments would I miss if I shuffled off to bed? I’m not panicked about the passage of time; all the same, I’m in no position to waste it.
This year’s spring break adventure (yet another shared experience with an expiration date) landed us in Southern California, where we stayed with dear friends, visited the beach, explored botanical gardens — and sat in the car.
I admit, I was grumbly about Los Angeles traffic at first. It should not take 90 minutes to drive 30 miles in the middle of a random weekday. My grand plans for nonstop sightseeing were thwarted. We simply couldn’t navigate from one place to the other fast enough.
Who was stuck in the rental car with me, though? My two children, who for the next four years have the exact same school calendar.
I embraced that traffic as extra time with my two people — Cooper in the front passenger seat, helping me navigate and offering commentary on every automobile on the 5, the 110, the 134, the 405 and Santa Monica Boulevard, and Katie in the back, asking questions about every billboard on the 5, the 110, the 134, the 405 and Santa Monica Boulevard.
As always happens when I’m driving in unfamiliar territory, we got a little lost a couple of times. I tried and failed to parallel park at least three times. We wandered 20 minutes in a Hollywood parking garage, desperate to locate our rental car. (Parking, clearly, is not my forte.)
Not a single second was wasted.
We were together for every missed turn, for every comical attempt to slide into a metered spot, for every increasingly uncomfortable minute searching in that nondescript basement lot.
Bring on the sledding, the marathon homework nights, the stuck-in-traffic days. They’re limited edition, supplies lasting not as long as we’d like.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.