We have had some long and languid days around here after our recent trip to Ohio – the kind of days were girls and boys disappear behind doors and into their inventive worlds, the boys alternating between Legos and Avengers, the girls withdrawn into the voices and wardrobes of their dolls. It’s in the morning that I usually find Andrew and Colin opening the kitchen drawer, pulling out straws and sticking them between their knuckles as if to imitate the razor sharp claws of Wolverine. Yesterday, Andrew informs me: “I’m marrying the Hulk.” And looking puzzled, he asks his twin brother, Colin: “Who are you marrying again?”
“Ironman,” Colin answers quickly, and Andrew throws his head back as if to say, of course.
The twin babies I thought might never grow up start kindergarten tomorrow. I’ll dress them in their coordinating polo shirts, their collars laying flat – for at least the first five minutes. Today, at orientation, they will find their lockers, meet their teachers, and see their classroom for the first time.
But tomorrow, I will leave them there, returning for the first time in eleven and a half years to a house yawning emptiness.
Audrey, our oldest, starts middle school today. This summer, she’s embraced lip gloss, mascara and brush, her womanly sensibilities developing right alongside her changing body. But if only for these past several days, it’s as if she’s a girl still, she and her younger sister having spent the better part of the week meticulously arranging their dollhouses and furniture, combing through catalogues, and chattering about the pieces they may want next.
I don’t tell Audrey that in another several months, she may not be playing dolls.
Grey-haired women tell you that these days of young children go quickly. When you’re home with nursing babies and toddlers, you want only to punch them in the face – especially when they quip, “They’re the best years of your life!” You could be made to agree with them – if only you could get a good night sleep first.
The best days, if they really are that, are the blurring days, when day blurs into night into morning, and you awake, as if reliving the monotonous sameness of the movie, Groundhog Day. Nothing new will be demanded of you. Only more breakfast dishes and rounds of play dough, nap schedules and diapers. The demands of the early years are heavy indeed, tethered as you are to home, exhausted as you are by lack of sleep, isolated as you are behind your windowpanes.
But blink, and they are over. Your kindergartener will wear a polo shirt and carry a backpack. Your sixth-grader will dash out of the door wearing lip gloss. And the quiet that will finally settle over your house – this is what you’ve been waiting for, you know – may feel nothing like you supposed it would.
Tomorrow, it may even be tearful.