For most children, days are spent in constant anticipation. They ache for camp in the morning, swimming after lunch, and snack time in the afternoon. They ask multiple times a day about the schedule and pester adults about plans in the evening. They live from holiday to holiday and birthday to birthday, counting the months, weeks, and even days. Ask any elementary school child how old they are, and you will more than likely get a response with a fraction of a year attached (6 and a half, 7 and three-quarters, and in the hysterical case of Munchkin #9, 6 and five-sixths).
And so time passes, and pretty soon an infant is a toddler, and a toddler is in preschool, and the preschooler is in elementary school, and the elementary school child is in the throes of pre-adolescence, and the pre-adolescent is a terrible teenager and the teenager is looking at colleges and the college-bound kid is graduating and getting a job teaching in Romania.
My younger brother C~ and his girlfriend J~ just graduated from high school at the beginning of June. So graduation party season descended upon us, and dutifully I went. I ate LOTS of potatoes and chicken and cake and looked at pictures and through scrapbooks and socialized with the same people over and over. And I celebrated the milestone, the huge accomplishment, the BIG deal that this is. I gave hugs and cards and congratulations and good luck wishes. And I thought about the passage of time.
As I sorted through snapshots for C~'s graduation party and marveled at the beautiful growth of my beautiful brother, I was struck by the magnitude and multitude of life. I taught that child to walk, and then watched 17 years later as he walked across a stage. I watched him grow and change from a child of energy and craziness and perseverance to a man of integrity and strength and humor. I observed from a distance his growth, and in the meantime forgot that it was happening to me.
Though my other brother hasn't yet graduated from high school, the same thing happened to him. I watched E~ develop into a real person this year. I am struck by my memories of the sweet little boy he used to be, always joking and playing and making everyone laugh. He was an unbelievably bright and beautiful child, and I blinked, and he became a man with talent and grace and confidence. Even his body seemed to change in an instant, from a soft and approachable boy to a solid and self-assured man. And again, while I was watching E~ grow, I forgot that I was doing the same thing.
And so now the baby, the firstborn, the caretaker, the testy adolescent, the planner, the worrier, and the kid who couldn't WAIT for the passage of time is grieving a tiny bit. She is a little sad about how quickly these last 22 years have passed. And as she prepares mentally and physically and emotionally to leave the certain and the known and the sure, she is a little bit afraid of the growth that is certain to happen this year.