Someday man will travel at the speed of light, of small interest to those of us still trying to catch up to the speed of time.” ~Robert Brault
Lately it seems as if Ive swallowed summer in one big gulp, like the last swig of Long Island iced tea on a scorching afternoon. I wish I had more in my glass.
I turned forty-nine this month, and already Im wondering how to make forty-nine last as long as I can possibly stretch it. I plan to age gracefully — no dragging my heels into my fifties. Id like to become one of those plucky old women who wear purple and “learn to spit,” as the Jenny Joseph poem goes.
But not so fast.
Recently, my son Nate and I were having a mock philosophical discussion about the velocity of time. He was anxious for the arrival of the new family car wed ordered, which had been delayed in production. To him, the days werent accelerating fast enough; time was stalling like a faulty engine. Later he complained that summer break was ending too quickly.
His senior year of high school started last week, and Im still trying to wrap my mind around that idea, too. Weve been shopping for colleges since May, and applications will be mailed soon.
Just one more year.
Another mom, whose only child is my sons age, also tastes the bittersweet tang in this last swig of summer. Our lives will change too, she reminds me, when high school ends.
This will be the last year we rush to nuke meals in time for play rehearsals and tennis games.
This will be the last year we quit work early to snag front-row seats at concerts and award banquets.
This will be the last year we snap photos of our kids in tuxedos and prom dresses. And the last year for school uniforms, bagged lunches, bake sales, teachers luncheons, fund-raisers, permission slips, and field trips.
Of course, theres the sweet ring of freedom in all of this, too. Dont think it hasnt occurred to every middle-aged parent who stands teary-eyed on the same threshold.
I chose to work at home when Nate was younger, combining freelance writing with Tiger Cubs and carpooling. Later on, I tried to stay involved in high school activities. Meanwhile, Ive put a few dreams on hold, not to mention the career goals Ive filed away. Ive looked forward to the time when I can start my day without checking the school calendar. But Ill miss other aspects of having a kid in school. Ill miss the sense of community Ive felt while comparing notes with other parents; Ill miss all the Mothers Club meetings and school conferences. And Ill miss the incomparable satisfaction I get every time I work on projects involving young people.
This hit me on the long ride home from the campus of the University of Notre Dame, which I toured earlier this month with Nate and three of his closest friends â€“ Andrea, Lauren, and Ryan. Though Ive known these kids since they were small, it had been a while since wed spent so much quality time in my compact station wagon. Between long stretches of road construction, periodic rain showers, and the Bare Naked Ladies blaring on the CD player, I remembered how much Ive enjoyed the easy laughter and awesome energy of these kids. And Im excited about this next phase of their lives.
But whether they head for Notre Dame or Michigan State next fall, Im going to miss them. A lot.
As we drove closer to suburban Detroit, my backseat crew quieted down. The sky cleared, and one of the richest sunsets Id ever seen suddenly appeared in my rearview mirror. My right foot instinctively moved toward the brake pedal â€“ as if that would make it last a while longer. I didnt notice the cars tailing me on the expressway until Nate pointed out that I was driving like an old woman, way below the speed limit.