The Observer's pal and former colleague, a dedicated Deputy Observer, ran across the following piece of writing while cleaning out an online folder to make room for still more of the snippets and starts and literary flotsam and jetsam that seem to pile up around a writer like snowdrifts. The Observer has got a million of 'em, tucked back for our biographer.
Her son is 9 now, and the rocker she speaks of is long gone. That's life, folks: Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future, no matter how much we might want to make a moment stick. As our friend notes below, when you're a parent you become acutely aware of time whether you want to or not, every child a living clock that doesn't tick or gong the hour, but only grows and grows. Parenthood is joy upon joy, with some sadness and fear in between, in turn interspersed with plentiful frustration and long minutes of staring at yourself in the mirror, trying to remember who you were before you became Mom or Dad, all of it jumbled in together like a jar full of stones, with pebbles to fill the spaces between the stones, and sand to fill the spaces between the pebbles. May your joys always be the stones in that concoction, my friend, not the pebbles or sand. Whatever the case, it's good to see that our Deputy is figuring out the hardest lesson of parenthood — that the bittersweet part is part of the sweet:
"Sometime this week we'll be donating the glider chair and ottoman that I inherited from my sister when I had my first baby seven years ago. Hours and hours I spent in that chair, nursing him, rocking him, reading him stories, singing him to sleep, dozing off myself with him sacked out on my chest. My sister rocked both of her babies in it for years before she gave it to me. It's sat neglected in an overcrowded corner of my younger child's room for a year or two now, though, ever since we all decided we liked it better piling together on the living room couch for story time and snuggles. Our rocking days are over, and there are other moms and dads with other babies who could use it, so off it goes. I'll probably force both kids to sit on my lap for one final snuggle before we load it into my dad's truck. I'll probably cry.
"The goodbyes are hard enough when you know they're coming. The ones you miss altogether, though — those can be brutal. When your younger child is relating yet another exploit of her invisible friend, and it occurs to you that it's been an awfully long time since your older child mentioned his — the one who used to spend hours with him in his underground invention garage, who arrived by a portal that came out into one of his desk drawers, who skateboarded alongside our car on the way to school most mornings. For that matter, it's been awhile since you've even heard about the underground invention garage, or anything invisible at all. You could ask about him, and probably bring him back for the 30 seconds it would take for your son to make up something, but that feels too much like when you'd keep calling that guy who'd tried to just drift away without making a scene.
"And you can't remember the last time he asked you to tie a blanket around his shoulders like a cape. Or the last time you read "Goodnight Moon." The last time you carried your little girl across the street. Vanished into the mist of growing up.
"The saving grace of raising children, though, is that everything that vanishes makes room for something new — the first time he reads a book without help. The first time she makes her own peanut butter sandwich. The first time they sit down and build a new Lego set together, him reading the instructions and her following them without a fuss. The first time you have a real conversation with your son. You don't always notice the firsts either, but they come, and they're amazing, and they make it almost OK to let that rocking chair go."