“Hi, Joe!” I say to the husky little guy flanked by his two white-blonde sisters — one a couple years older, one just a year younger.
All three little faces light up. Emma, the oldest, rushes to hug me.
Though the youngest, Grace, isn’t really sure if she knows me, the fact that her sister obviously does is good enough for her to wrap her chubby little arms around my legs and share the love.
“How are you guys? I haven’t seen you in a while! Are you having a nice summer?”
They smile and talk over each other. Jockeying for my attention. They are probably the happiest little kids I know. Always smiling. Always laughing. I’ve never once seen them pushing or shoving each other. They’re young though. The day may come when those happy-go-lucky preschoolers turn into snotty grade schoolers who find each other highly annoying and their parents insufferable.
But, for now, they are like a wriggling litter of warm puppies dancing around my waist. I kneel down and soak it in.
“Want to come watch the race with me & the girls? Emma, go ask your dad if it’s OK if you come with us.”
He peeks out of the race timing truck and gives me a wave and tells the kids to listen to me. I stretch out both hands, one for each of the two little ones. Both fit a slighty-sticky still toddler-pudgy little hand into my own skinny, veined hands that look more and more like my mother’s every day.
Lauren jumps right into the role of big sister.
“Here, Gracie, you can have my cowbell.”
Little Joe has my cowbell and the two of them ring the bells endlessly, delighted by the earsplitting clanging noise. It’s obnoxiously loud. And I don’t care. It occurs to me that if they were my kids and it was 8 years ago, I’d have cared. I’d have distracted them and took the bells away lest they bother the people around us. But now I know now how temporary it all is. The race is less than hour. The precious years of childhood seem even shorter.
Ring away, kids.
As we wait for the first runners to return, I sit cross legged on the grass while the kids play — tossing rocks and blades of grass down a storm drain on the side of the road. Gracie looks at me and I pat my lap. She sits down and leans her back against my chest. I tie her shoe while she tells me about something or other. I’m half listening as I suck in the sent of summer toddler. They should bottle that stuff for moms of preteens/teens, when kids aren’t so cute anymore and we forget how they once fit perfectly in our laps and arms.
After the race and the awards, after the sun goes down, the air cools, and we are walking back to the truck. Lauren asks, “Mom, do you sometimes wish I were still 5?”
Normally, I’d dismiss that type of question with a wave and a “I don’t live in the past” or an “I love the age you are right now” speech. But I don’t think…I just answer: “Yeah, sometimes I do. Sometimes I do.”
About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”