● By Wendy Sipple
Illustration by John Stricker
My daughter is going to be a high school senior this year. A senior.
It doesn’t seem possible. I can still feel the chilled night air in November 1992 when we took her from the hospital for her first ride home. It’s eerie, like we got into the car but instead of pulling onto the roadway we took a left into some cosmic wormhole, and although it seems only moments later – cue the Twilight Zone theme – we’re all nearly 18 years older.
I’m far from the first parent to suddenly reel from being kicked between the eyes by the steel-toed boots of time. But it’s startling nonetheless. Our oldest boy, Joe, is in seventh grade this year. The kid, who up until recently reacted to bath water the same way Superman does to kryptonite, had his first girlfriend in May. It appeared serious too, because on their third day of “dating” – a Friday – they actually stopped texting each other and spent real time together when she came over to the house. In fact, at one point I was pleasantly stunned to see the both riding around on his bicycle. It reminded me of that great scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Katherine Ross is riding atop the handlebars of Paul Newman’s bike while “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” played; except Joe and his young lady both had helmets on. But alas, it was not meant to be. The following Monday we found out she texted him that it was over. She’d met some guy named Heath, whom probably had a cooler bike.
Pulling up the rear is our fifth grader, Sam. Sam, bless his heart, is still at the age where you can tell everything he’s eaten during the day just by looking at his shirt. One glance can also tell you what sport he played at recess, what color pens he used for art, and whether or not glue was a part of the project. But he’s getting older too. When he was little, he had one of the largest skulls we’d ever seen on a toddler. The thing was huge, like a bowling ball sitting on top of a baseball tee. Now, he’s proportional and beginning to really sprout...the hemlines on the legs of his jeans look like the water marks left behind by a rapidly receding tide. With relatives on both sides of our family checking in at well over six feet, his mom and I are already stockpiling non-perishables like another Y2K scare is coming. If I were you, I’d invest heavily in Safeway starting about 2012.
But Emma has always been the first: the first to walk, to go to school, to go to a dance, to date, to get a job and now, to reach the final year of high school. I hustled her to the car that cold November night as quickly as I could, afraid that between the doors of the hospital and the backseat of our Mazda 323 she could catch pneumonia…or be bitten by a rabid bat…or struck by an errant meteor. I didn’t want anything to happen to her. But something did happen: Time. It happened to her, and to us. And it is still happening, as nearly undetectable and relentless as erosion.
I miss my little girl, and soon enough I’ll miss my little guys, but their mom and I are entranced by who they are becoming. So, despite the miles of roadway now disappearing in our rear-view, we don’t glance back too much. There’s still too much to see through the windshield up ahead.
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