The sun was melting into the mountains in the distance that divides the valley I live in from the coast beyond. It was dusk on Sunday and the lazy afternoon turned evening seemed to demand it was about time we move. The perfect weather of a California late summer day’s end was beckoning. Leaving shoes still piled by the front door we ventured out in our bare toes, letting the screen door bang closed behind us.
In a cluster, the four of us, my husband, daughter and son, wander down the street and on to the next, and the next, retracing the path we had taken trick or treating last fall and so many other times biking through the neighborhood of the mid-century built homes on our way from one place to the next. Above us the leaves are beginning to dry, the rich greens of summer faded from the summer’s sun and persistent drought. The scant sprinkle of leaves on the ground, foreshadowing the inevitable fall.
You don’t notice how many things you step on until you don’t wear your shoes, my husband remarks, complaining at the miniature ornamental fruit falling from the trees, scattering on the sidewalk and road. They’re hard not to step on, and also hard when you step on it. They look like cherries, but it’s a tease. We walk around them and over them, admiring and critiquing the lawns and landscaping. We envy the low maintenance and foresight of the xeriscaping, the lush flowers at the homes of gardeners and the house cooling shade of the redwoods and sycamore trees planted so many decades ago when wood of the houses were built of were still fresh, honey colored and trees were sapling. The kids point out things they like and prance around us.
The kids, now each weeks from their birthdays try to get in more turns of fast fading privileges: shoulder rides and catching a jump swing-leap between my husband and I. My son is already too big and now takes turns helping hoist his sister up before she grows too tall for the walking swing. It’s certain, she will, just as he did. He’ll wear my shoe size next year.
When he’s not chasing and teasing her, or running up to poke at his dad, he’ll pause to walk with me and sometimes grabs my hand. It’s my favorite thing, but I don’t ask for it anymore. I won’t coerce him to hold my hand when he’s ten going on eleven, or eleven going on twelve in a few weeks time; I forced that enough when he was a toddler to preschooler trying to brazenly cross the intersection without me. I like it best when he wants to. I’d hate for the last time he spontaneously holds my hand to not be so. I do squeeze it welcome when he reaches out for mine. His childhood will twist to adolescence any day now. I’m always afraid it will disappear tomorrow along with so many other last times. The last handhold, the last time he sleeps with his stuffed animal, the last time he asks me to read to him, and the last time he’ll snuggle beside me will pass and I’ll never know it was.
So it goes. So it must.
Even at a year away, it’s sobering to realize he’s the next boy to graduate primary, that we’ll be getting an invitation to priesthood preview in the new year. I don’t cry when my kids hit milestones, when they go back to school or grow up. But this one is going to be big. He’ll pull away from me out of necessity. It’s what we want them to do: to grow up, to stop smacking at dinner, to remember to put on clean clothes, and make scrambled eggs without help. But still. It’s a shift to not be needed in the way you once were.
We round the last block and walk home on the now cooling sidewalk. The sun has set. I’m startled at how fast the temperature changed in our short stroll. Uncovered feet makes any subtle change less so.
This week we went live on the foster care network. Any day, any hour now when the need arises and we are the right family, we could take a new little into our home. Most likely a wee one. We’re all excited, nervous, and curious at the changes and requirements ahead. It won’t just be a change for me, or my husband as we foster toward a hopeful adoption when the time is right; she’ll be a big sister for the first time, but he will grow up.
What’s on the cusp for you? What are you holding on to and/or letting go of?