A flashback to childhood…
One burst of light, and then it’s gone.
There are moments that I suck in my breath as my grown child is talking, telling me about work and college. And suddenly, I see her as she was: Freckles, missing and crooked teeth, three and a half feet tall, telling me about science and how she is going to be an archaeologist when she grows up. Or in a shimmer, I see my little author child, pen in hand, holding up her latest story. Her braids fly wildly askew under her straw hat, which she wears to help her get in character to write. Her freckles are drawn on with brown crayola marker to look more like Tom Sawyer. “It’s all about a girl who wants a dog, Mom. And she finally gets one! That’s the happy surprise ending, see my illustration? She gets a dog!” Or, as my now-teenager asks for the car keys, and reaches out her hand, I see the chubby little fingers of her at two years old, holding my hand just because I was the powerful one who kept away the monsters in the dark. She’d grip my fingers in hers, and hold on tightly until she was sound asleep. Ah, the days when I could fix everything that was important to them.
Those days didn’t last.
And at these lucid moments, when I again see a mirage of my small children, my heart beats on my chest wall with a pang of longing, and tears spring to my eyes. I smile and reach out, but they are transformed. They are grown.
It was just a shooting star. A glimmer of what used to be.
Suddenly, I am old, and they are taller than I am. “You okay, Mom?” they look at me quizzically. “What are you smiling about?” Snap. They are adults, and they take the vision of my tiny child with them when they walk away, unknowing. “Are you smiling and crying at the same time, Mom? Are you?”
Of course I am.
This week, the Perseid Meteor Shower hit around here. Carpe diem, I say. This is one of those moments! We all stayed up until it was extremely late, and extremely dark. Then my youngest kids and I camped out, wrapped in quilts under the dark sky, and counted real-life shooting stars.
“Oh Mom! Did you see that? I saw one! I saw one! I saw a shooting star!”
“Don’t kick me.”
“Watch out! You’re crowding me! I don’t want to fall off the roof of the truck.”
“Can I have some of your blanket, please?”
“I saw it! I saw it! I saw it!!!”
“I lost my shoes, Mom”
“Pass the binoculars.”
“Did you know that stars are made up of burning gas?”
“Mom, what’s a star made of?”
“Well, she’s right. But quit worrying about burning gas! You’re not a star.”
“Foot out of my hair, please.”
“Wow! That one was huge!”
Small One nestled in my elbow, on the hood of the truck. She lisps through the new hole in her teeth, where a baby tooth fell out earlier. “I’m tho glad you got me up the thee thith, Mom. Thankth.”
We whispered now, partly because some kids had fallen asleep. And partly because we were deep in Awe.
We felt the dark silence of the universe surrounding us. Alive, burning, sparkling.
We were small.
We stayed out there until the wee hours, counting shooting stars. It was priceless.
This is one of those moments in life that will keep coming back to me.
Watching the sudden, silent bursts of light in the darkness with my kids…finding the joy in the stillness of the night.
As I carried the small ones back inside to their beds, I promised myself that in the rush and bustle of life, I will never be too busy to hug someone under the stars.
Because shooting stars don’t last forever.