My body is ready for sleep long before my brain is ready to shut off. Many nights I lie awake, as my mind vomits information it’s held onto all day long. Did I pack Eli’s snack? I really shouldn’t put off that freelance query any longer. We need to start practicing Spanish. Is Rosetta Stone worth the money? I should research that tomorrow. What should we have for dinner tomorrow night? Is Elena getting enough iron? Are Hannah and Adam going to make it?
You get the idea. The other night, though, instead of the usual barrage of information, I couldn’t get a particular snapshot in time out of my head.
It was 2006. Elena was attending her first Montessori school, and because I was working part-time she went to school every day. Four out of the five days each week I was the one to pick her up. We had this routine. Instead of waiting in pickup line, I’d park the car and walk to her classroom. Her teachers would tell me about her day, which usually involved some version of the shenanigans she’d pulled instead of napping. We’d walk hand-in-hand until we reached the big rock next to the parking lot. We’d sit there together, and she would chatter about her day and eat her snack. Unless it was bitterly cold or raining, this was our thing.
Usually I try desperately to clear my mind before sleeping, but I held on to this thought. It’s one of my favorite memories of Elena as a preschooler, in a giant treasure box of happy memories I have of her as a young child. She was then, as she is now, a delightful person to spend time around. Goofy, happy, articulate, funny, and chatty. I’m so happy that as the teen years approach, she is still basically the same person, only taller and able to share my shoes. Sure, there are days when we are intolerable to her, when I’m afraid her eyes will roll right out of her head or shoot lasers at us. But mostly, she’s still the same girl who happily sat next to me on the big rock.
We also used to spend hours at Phillips Toy Mart together. Man, I miss that place. It truly is one of the world’s great toy stores. Every spring they brought in rabbits to live in a themed bunny playground for a couple of weeks. Who even does that? Besides having every toy that any child could ever want, it had an enormous model train display. Like, as big as my dining room enormous. I remember the day Elena was big enough to climb the ladder to the observation tower that only kids could fit in. She was so proud! And the beginning of separating from me, although we never seem to notice these minuscule steps until we realize our kids are halfway to adulthood and not holding our hand anymore.
Not the rock of the treasured memories … but definitely what it can feel like navigating the tween years.
I can’t tell you the last time we hung out in a toy store together, but we have hung out in the feminine products aisle and I did take her to get her brows waxed last Saturday. Trust me, watching bunnies and trains is way more fun. There are days when it feels like all I do is nag her – did you do your homework, brush your teeth, pack your lunch, pick up your wet towel? There are days when our timing is ridiculously off. I long to talk to her and she’s off to a friend’s house. She’s chatty and I have a deadline looming. I want to go back to those days on the rock, when we had nothing but time and an endless supply of Goldfish crackers.
But in doing so I would miss the fascinating young women she’s becoming. That would be a shame. I’d like to think that twenty years from now, when the hot flashes and my overactive bladder keep me awake, my brain will return to the memories we’re making today.