this is what fall does to me

I will go very far,
farther than those hills,
farther than the seas,
close to the stars,
to beg Christ the Lord
to give back the soul I had
of old, when I was a child,
ripened with legends,with a feathered cap
and a wooden sword.

--Federico Garcia Lorca

For regular parents of regular kids** there are a lot of common milestones that come as a surprise. We weren't told, for instance, that we'd have to go to school again. I was so glad to get out of those institutions and to some minor degree I'm there again, living each year three times over. Ugh.

In the fall, some of this Surprise! stuff makes me sad, and I'm not just talking about Back to School.

A more internal, private parental pain is rarely mentioned or mentioned in such a treacly manner I discounted it: A growing kid always leaves behind something, a part of himself, and we lose someone we know and love. The kid I know this year isn't the one from two years ago, and there are so many things I miss about that lost boy. I don't just mean the way they (all three boys) used to look at me with unclouded affection and -- by golly-- reverence. Though God knows I miss that one.

I also don't mean the little things--mispronounced words are cute. I'm talking about the deeper childhood things I used to think are myths created by adults who looked back with misty eyes. Turns out those aspects of children are true. Here are a couple: Unadulterated joy and being so in the moment the world doesn't exist. But the thing that I've seen gone from each kid and I most deeply mourn for them and for me -- the magic.

Magic was the way they not just played games with pretending, they could BE the game. It was real to them. I hadn't realized there was an actual moment that reality ended until I was there when BoyOne recognized the loss in himself. I was weeding out front and he was there with his brothers careening around being superheroes or something.

He looked bored and then suddenly he got really angry and stormed into the house. I found him in his room crying and after a lot of prodding on my part, he said "I can't do it. I miss it so much." After that moment, he usually refused to play those games unless he was "babysitting".

He still does D&D and Guild wars and whatnot. Loves that stuff. But there's no way he'll ever manage to BE there except when he's asleep and dreaming. And that is such a profound loss, I guess we can't even recall it in our own lives. Because I'm a parent, I saw it happening, and that particular sacrifice to growth can still make me cry.

Most of the time, it's easy to remind myself that an adult wandering around certain he's got magical powers is at a disadvantage in the world. *** And that if the boys looked at me with that sort of love now, we'd all have to go do counseling. Remembering those facts, plus the fact that I actually like how we interact now (I appreciate funny, snotty pre-teens and teenagers) is not as easy in the autumn. That's when what's gone is most vivid--the people who're dead and/or gone haunt me now, even the ones who're still perfectly happy and walking around.

* * * *

Hot ziggetty, I bet I'll be a barrel of laughs next year at this time. That's when BoyOne will be seventeen and starting college. As every parent on the planet (and in every musical) says when they catch sight of their grown, or nearly-grown, off-spring--How in hell did that happen so fast?


**in other words kids who're basically happy in families with nothing too outrageously nightmarish happening to distract everyone from regular, day-to-day life.

***And there is also the fact that little kids are so. . . childish. Tantrums. Diapers. Carseats and two hour long bedtime rituals. Watching them every moment they're awake so they don't succeed with one their endless attempts to kill themselves. Hmm. Just writing this paragraph has cheered me the hell up. Which is the silver lining? Having kids who can basically take care of most of their needs makes up for losing many of the lovely aspects, or having the magic and love helps balance such a labor-intensive package? Probably just yin-yang.
Or maybe it's time for more coffee again.

* * * * *

BTW, it's actually pretty easy to get way, way out of this maudlin mood. All I need to do is remember someone like the mother I met back in Frederick. She had a trisomy-something baby girl born the same month as Boy3. I used to pump for the baby because she couldn't breastfeed.

I didn't really know them and we got together exactly once. By then my boy was crawling around and the other baby couldn't even hold up her head. The mother said, "I used to wish my babies would stay little forever so I could always hold them. Guess I got my wish."


  1. That was beautiful, Kate

  2. Yep. MG's still there, for a while. But I can see those glimpses of her older self already, and I get all pang-y.

  3. Anonymous11:58 AM

    Hey Kate

    Now you know your CB's mom reads this blog. Well it's good. And this was wonderful. I kareen between grief at that loss (and I remember when he noticed too) to fear that he won't be ready for LIFE. I have a list of things I think he must know by then, and we are behind, but catching up... You know: how to cook an egg, how to apologize after running into someone's bumper, mailbox, cat, whatever...


  4. I remember when the game was everything. THe summer's game of kick the can. First, my sister out grew it and I didn't understand and the next year it was me.

    Wonderful post.

  5. I was going to write a reply but it keeps getting lost so I'll just say yeah, what you guys said.
    plus Vivo, CB wants his shirt back, right?

  6. Kate -- this was amazing. You made me get all teary, too (which, frankly, isn't all that difficult to do...).

    That loss of childhood magic and wonder really is so poignant. I guess in a way I'm lucky because mine is still so young... I'm hoping she holds on to that for a while longer, too.

    The thing that also gets me now are the hurts that won't be prevented when she gets older -- the fights with best friends, the crushes, the heartbreak. It does make one want to wrap the kid up in bubble wrap to protect her -- mind you, then she really would never get a date, and that would be equally as traumatic, I suppose.

  7. Anonymous11:53 AM

    Beautiful words. There's a saying...Youth is wasted on the young. I didn't get it THEN, I do now.

    The mother with the trisomy...was probaby either trisomy 13 or 18. Those children don't usually have a long life span. Many Tri-21 (Down Syndrome) do better. How very sad for that mother.


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