Today, I was talking to a friend about the fact that we both have our 30th high school reunions this year. My class has put together a Facebook page, where we are all reconnecting. Frankly, some of us were never connected in the first place– aside from the fact that we all attended this one high school. It’s been fun and interesting to actually get to know some of these people thirty years later, and to fill in the gaps with others, who I knew better. My 14 yr old son overheard part of this conversation and couldn’t fathom that it could be thirty years since I was where he is now. No shit. Depending on the day, and sometimes the hour, neither can I.
It is a true cliché that so many parents say, upon seeing their kids go through various life stages: “it all goes by so quickly, in the blink of an eye.” Hmm, I have to really think about that, even though I have used the same phrase myself. When my friend used it today, I told her that I think it is really more like a long, slow, lazy blink… or better yet, it’s a: let me rest my eyes for a moment and BAM! My kids are going through all the rituals that still feel so fresh to me, as I look at my year book and chat on line with these people I haven’t seen in thirty years. As I see my own kids sneaking out; trying out for sports; hoping to get asked out by this guy, that girl; graduating high school; applying to colleges and waiting to hear… so many moments when I want to scream: Wait a fucking minute! I did that too! It wasn’t that long ago. Then, the thirty years since I graduated, let alone the twenty-one years since I became a parent does seem like a blink.
I don’t feel that old. The clichéd blink is real only when I see it in the context of the years since I was where they are now. I sound old to myself, let alone them, as I try to draw comparisons between the two. Looking at the years between when they were little and now, is the slower blink. There is Principessa, at 20 months, boldly walking along the perimeter of Lincoln Park in Chicago, never looking back to see if we are there. I can still hear my younger self say: “She’s so damned independent! It makes me crazy now, but I hope she maintains it later… she’ll need it.” She did. It still makes me crazy some days, but mostly I’m proud that she is so adventurous and independent. Blink, and she heads out the door, to explore Irael (for 11 mths), Egypt, Jordan, NYC, etc, rarely asking us for help, sometimes not calling. She’s still not looking back. The 19 years since that little girl took off across the green grass outside the zoo, is truly a blink… a lazy one, the hazy boundaries defined by: countless days of whiny monotony, when I often felt trapped in my own life; glorious peals of laughter and learning to swim; chasing fire flies in our yard in Michigan and hiding from violent storms that brought thunder, lightening, occasional tornadoes and thrills galore; broken bones and trips to the ER; long, deep chats about getting her period or falling in love; realizing there was someone in our house, competing for my role as Queen B: Queen Bitch; the heart breaks in high school that dragged me right back to my own dark places; watching her take off for college and trying to figure out what my role was when she left. Blink, Blink.
It’s been the same with each of my three kids. Endless periods where the time drags and I have felt like I am drowning in a life I can’t keep up with and that isn’t what I imagined. Endless periods when I appreciate being just where I am and love what I’m doing. Periods when I close my eyes for a moment and the time has passed at warp speed. I am dizzy some days, just trying to wrap my mind around it. Can that really be me in the mirror? Where did that line come from? When did that stop fitting? No point in counting the white hairs that have changed my “orange” hair to a muted auburn, on good days. The image rarely matches the image in my head. The blink and you’ll miss it thing means things now that it didn’t mean twenty-one years ago when my baby was growing so fast, but the rest of my life was a blur.
Thinking of a reunion, celebrating thirty years since we graduated, is unreal when I try to imagine another thirty years. Try not to blink, knowing the changes that may come. Thinking ahead to those next thirty years, if I rest my eyes for a moment, will I wake up?