Thursday, September 2, 2010


"Well the sun's not so hot in the sky today
and you know I can feel summertime slipping away . . ."
-James Taylor, "September Grass"

I remember the very first day of March feeling very "March-y" this year: bright sunshine melting the icicles, warm wind, spring smells. Six months later, September 1 felt very "September-y," too: dark, low clouds; drizzly rain; requisite geese flying overhead when I sat on the couch late in the evening. I lit the cinnamon cider candle, had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season, too. I love when the weather corresponds neatly to the calendar (winter, take note).

Last night, our triathlon training group did a simulation of the actual event. We couldn't do it on the course we'll be using, mostly because it's tough to swim in Reed's Lake in the evenings (too many boats) and not idea to ride on Fulton (too busy). So we gathered at a little lake out in Caledonia somewhere and set up our "transition areas" (read: old towel with running shoes, a Camelback, and a packet of Gu next to my mountain bike from 1998) on the front lawn of a generous woman who let us all in to use her bathroom when we had to pee from nervousness.

Connie, Katie, Jason and I crammed ourselves into the wetsuits we'll be renting and followed the group into the lake. I swam half a mile no problem and hope, hope, hope it goes as smoothly on the day of the race. (Peeling myself out of the wetsuit, though, did not go as smoothly. Any tips, swimmers?) Then we headed to the lawn, slammed some Gatorade and Gu, and biked 18 miles through cornfields and to the town of Middleville and back. Off the bikes, we ran just over four miles. It was dark by the time we finished up, fireflies lighting our way on the gravel roads, and we were just plain glad to be DONE. It was all of the guts, none of the glory, but I do feel as prepared as possible for next Saturday. Now, crossing my fingers for good weather.

Today I took the girls to Marie Catrib's for lunch just because it's one of the last times I'll be able to take them both out like this for a long while. We waited and waited for a table, the girls and I doing hand-clapping games and singing the little songs that go with to pass the time, Marie coming around with plates of peaches and cookies to appease our hunger. We ate our meals (PB&J, macaroni and cheese, and the cranberry chicken sandwich on challah, all shared around the table) and then of course we finished with pudding, and my desire to have a large vat of it as part of our post-triathlon celebration was confirmed.

Later, we ventured to Annie's school to meet her new teacher and check out her classroom. Her locker is HUGE - she could fit inside it entirely - and she went about choosing a spot to sit and dutifully placing her binders and composition notebooks (hee!) and pencil box inside an actual desk. (A desk! With a nametag! They did not have desks in kindergarten. This is The Real Deal.) She loved her teacher. She loved seeing her friends. She is so eager to return on Tuesday and get started on first grade. She is counting the days.

I took a few minutes today to scroll through the hundreds of photos we took this summer as we prepare to bid it farewell, and I can't believe how spectacular it was. The weather was awesome, the girls were at an age where they can do most everything with us but the wonder hasn't yet worn off, and we truly made the most of these three months. Looking at the photos, I felt so incredibly blessed and grateful for all the moments: baseball games, sparklers, memorable meals, Lake Michigan, the pool, lemonade stands, camping, fireworks, biking, ice cream . . .

. . . and as much as I love fall, a tiny part of me doesn't want to see it end. I just finished the book Devotion by Dani Shapiro. I folded down the page where she wrote this:

Autumn has always been my favorite season, and even more so since we've moved to a part of the country known for its foliage. As we drove past lakes framed with the fiery mix of color, I had a familiar desire to freeze the moment - to stop time. Stay this way, I silently asked. I wasn't just asking the leaves to hold on to the trees. I was asking Jacob to stay a little boy, for Michael to remain vital and healthy, for myself to stay a while longer in this chapter of my life.

"Mommy?" Jacob piped up from the back seat. "I'm hungry. Is there anything to eat or drink?"

Even this - even my son calling me Mommy - felt bittersweet. When would I be demoted to just plain Mom?

I reached into the back seat and handed Jacob a bag of chips and a milk box. I was longing for the moment I was in, even as I was in it. I was mourning it, as if we were already a yellowed photograph in an album: my family together on a country drive, young, healthy, happy, whole.

I knew better, of course. I knew that trying to capture time - to hold on to anything at all - was not only useless, but a terrible waste. Time was all we had.

I am trying so hard not to do this - not to long for the moment I am in, even as I am in it. I am trying, instead, to savor the moments, to celebrate them, to capture them in words and photos, to plan for more of them the next day, and the next.

There was a moment on Tuesday when the girls and I were at the beach and I was in the middle of them, holding both their hands as we jumped the crashing waves and the sunshine glinted off the water. The girls were squealing and joyous, the water swirled around my knees, and I felt myself smile - not at them, but just at life, at the moment I'd been given. I said, "I wish I had the camera out here with me. We'll have to take a picture with our brain and remember how fun this is." And Jemma let go of my hand for a second, put her fingers up around her eyes, and said, "Click!"

I'm going to send my Annie off to first grade on Tuesday. I'm going to bid this fabulous summer farewell and maybe let myself mourn the passing of time for just one minute. Then I'm going to make a new list on the blackboard by the back door - a Fall List - and plan for more spectacular moments in the days and weeks to come. I'm going to do a triathlon. I'm going to celebrate a birthday with my big, little girl. Click. Click. Click.

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