I just finished reading Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu and a certain section of the book really struck me, especially with my oldest turning nineteen this past weekend.
He writes, “A family. They bring you home from the hospital, at which point everything speeds up. It’s a montage of first moments, all of the major and minor milestones: first step, first word, first time sleeping through the night. There are a few years in a family when, if everything goes right, the parents aren’t alone anymore, they’ve been raising their own companion, the kid who’s going to make them less alone in the world and for those years they are less alone. It’s a blur-dense, raucous, exhausting-feelings and thoughts all jumbled together into days and semesters, routines and first times, rolling along, rambling along, summer nights with all the windows open, lying on top of the covers, and darkening autumn mornings when no one wants to get out of bed, getting ready, getting better at things, wins and losses and days when it doesn’t go anyone’s way at all, and then, just as chaos begins to take some kind of shape, present itself not as a random series of emergencies and things you could have done better, the calendar, the months and years and year after year, stacked up in a messy pile starts to make sense, the sweetness of it all, right at that moment, the first times start turning into last times, as in, last first day of school, last time he crawls into bed with us, last time you’ll all sleep together like this, the three of you. There are a few years when you make almost all of your important memories. And then you spend the next few decades reliving them.”
All those first times and the last times. The concerts, school trips, science fairs, dance competitions, hockey games. All those years that seemed so wild when everyone was treading water just to keep afloat. And then suddenly, things get quiet.
They say you have sixteen summers.
Then there are jobs and friends and relationships and classes and new adventures. All good things, but you don’t realize how quickly they arrive.
I never knew how peaceful the chaos was until it was gone. My mother always said during those years, “You’ll miss the fingerprints on the windows one day.”
I’m so proud of the people my children are growing into and I stand in awe of their new adventures, but I will always relive those magical times when life was too fast to slow down.