Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Replacements

The other day I came across two boxes that were hidden in the back of the garage that had to be moved because there was a leak from the top floor shower dripping on them.   The boxes had undoubtedly been there for many years - probably since we moved into the house in 2004.   As I started to go through them trying to salvage what was wet, I realized that these boxes were more of time capsule than anything else.  They were a mishmash of things that were thrown carelessly together in an effort to move our lives quickly from one place to another.  I probably had the intention of unpacking them immediately once we moved into the new house before life distracted me from that goal.  

There was an interesting conglomeration of items - the petticoat from my wedding dress along with my wedding veil which were wet but not moldy.   I was able to save the petticoat and veil.  It was amazing how well they looked after a quick wash and line dry.  I'm not the size 4 that I was when I got married but at least the veil still fit. There were my high school year books that didn't get wet thankfully, old photos in plastic frames that were protected, and an ivory pipe collection from Max's side of the family had only a little wear and tear.   Finally, I found some old clothes of the kids that probably should have been donated rather than moved.   Knowing me, I probably thought they would get a few months more wear before they went the Salvation Army.    I put the damp clothes in the washing machine marveling at how little they were once and that their butts actually fit into these little sweat pants and dresses.  

I'm know I'm not the first person to say how fast the time goes when you have kids.   Time seems to slow down when they are babies and you are sleep deprived - you wonder when they will be able to do things for themselves.   Your whole life is about taking care of them - seeing to their needs.   You might have momentary feelings of resentment - when you just want five minutes in the bathroom to yourself but you need to have them in there with you so you can see what they're doing.  Everything has to be baby proofed once they get mobile.  Then when they are toddlers - they are all about saying "I do it - I do it" so emphatically that you let them even if you know that glass of milk they're pouring will end up over the counter and raining droplets on the floor.    Time speeds up once you are able to sleep through the night and their infant bodies seem to double and triple in size at a lightening speed.   They start to talk in full sentences and let you know exactly what they think and will ask you a ton of questions.  They develop this bold brightness - this trust in the world and their ability to navigate it. You marvel as they go into pre-school and let go of your hand so quickly to be with new friends or holding on for dear life because this new situation scares them.   In elementary school they have homework and school projects that make you realize that you are not smarter than a second grader much less than a fifth grader.  

I guess for me the wake up call on how fast it all goes came when Amber was about 10 years old and still in grade school.  We had gone and done some back to school shopping and gotten new shoes to start the school year.   We'd gone to Payless Shoes and found a wide variety of Barbie, Bratz and My Little Pony shoes.  I made a little joke about the Barbie shoes attacking the Bratz shoes which Amber just rolled her eyes at.   Six weeks later I noticed blisters on the tops of Amber's toes and asked her what was wrong.  "My shoes are really hurting me,"  she said.   I always buy shoes at least a half size bigger than what they are wearing and asked her to put on her shoes.  Instead of having toe wiggling room, I could see how her toes were crammed into the top of her sneaker.    We went to get shoes that night.   The sales lady took one look at her feet and got out the women's foot measure.   "She's ten and we just bought some little girl shoes a few week ago, how could she be in a women's size?" I asked.   The sales lady laughed - "Sometimes they literally grow over night and it look like she's a women's 5 1/2."   When Amber heard that, she was off like a flash to the women's department trying on bright red pumps.   I ran after her, past the the Barbie and Bratz shoes that I had casually mocked a few weeks ago and now was sad that I would never buy again for my daughter.   I found some sensible flats for her to try on to which she responded - "Those shoes are for little women Mom, they're not for me."   Gulp.   My daughter was turning into a young woman right before my very eyes and I was not ready.    

Daniel went from being my easy baby to a toddler with strong opinions about everything.   He's always known how to use his fair haired good looks to get what he wants.  When he was a toddler, he figured out how to climb out of his crib and go down the hall of our apartment at the time to see what we were watching on TV.   He'd get picked up and put right back into his crib.   One night as Max and I were watching The Gilmore Girls, there's three year old Daniel crawling on his stomach Marine style with a blanket, a small pillow and his favorite stuffy, Pup-Pup.   Once again, we told him "Get back into bed."  He looked at us with a mischievous smile and said "I in bed."  Technically, he was right, he had brought the contents of his bed with him - so yes - he was in bed.  Ah, loopholes - my first insight to the fact that my son might just be a lawyer.   Since then, he's become the family's resident expert on the Titanic and other shipwrecks.  But now he has set his sights on bigger things than just cruise ships - he's created his own country of Asoman which is in the Pacific and has it's own language, form of government, exports and currency.  He's even designed a flag and buildings for the capital of the country.    Some kids do Fantasy Football, my 11 year old son does fantasy countries.  

Those things ran through my mind as I got their time capsule clothes out of the dryer - and held them in my arms - still warm from the dryer and smelling of fabric softener.   The stripped green pajamas they both wore because it didn't look like a girl's or boy's PJs.  The little sun dress that Amber wore in the first grade.  The blue sweat pants Daniel used to wear to the park when he was 18 months and would sit on the swings and want us to push him.   The sight of them together holding hands and six year old Amber admonishing us for giving a time out to a two year old Daniel for breaking something he was told not to touch.  "How could you possibly punish this perfect little boy?" she asked with one hand on her hip and the other hand in his.    I prayed then and now that they will always stay best friends and look out after each other like that. 

As I put those clothes in the box to donate to St. Vincent DePaul, I realized that my children are growing up whether I wanted them to or not.  They are the next generation - our replacements.   They are also two of the smartest, funniest, creative and loving people I've ever met.   And while Max and I might not be perfect parents (Good God- who is?) I'm going to look forward to seeing what sort of adults they turn out to be.  My guess is that the future is in very good hands. 

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