I watch the two girls ride away on their bikes, and I am surprised when tears fill my eyes like raindrops in a bucket.
“They look so big,” I think to myself.
I am unsure why this particular outing causes me to choke back tears, paralyzing me in the moment. I have watched my twin daughters ride to their various friends’ houses all summer without significance.
But this Friday is the last one before fifth grade starts. It is their last summer weekend as elementary students. Next year the pair will be middle schoolers.
I swallow hard trying to control the rush of emotions surging through my body like an electric volt. It all went so fast.
I am sad about the end of this chapter. I am sad before it even begins.
Memories flood my brain like a slide show on fast forward. I see images of the first day they rode the bus, school parties, and Christmas mornings. I see snapshots of them with their tiny arms wrapped around their friends, playing dress up or walking in their father’s work boots around the kitchen floor.
Next year, they may go to their first dance, have a crush, or get embarrassed when I show up at school. Playdates will get replaced with “get-togethers” and the pressures of academics and social status will increase. They will need me less and more all at the same time.
I already miss our walks to school. I miss their excited little faces as they run through the door to tell me about their day. I long to hold them in my arms, squeeze them both tight and tell them one more time how lucky I feel that I am their mom.
The sound of my daughter’s cackling laughter startles me, pushing me back into reality. I shake my head side to side quickly to clear my mind and turn to wipe a tear before she sees.
“Mom, I totally forgot to put the sunscreen in my bag,” she says, cracking herself up. Her long leg easily goes over the side of the bike, an adult-sized one we bought this summer since she now stands five feet tall at age ten. She sheepishly smiles at me and my heart grows a little bigger as I watch the beautiful young lady standing before me. This girl who is self-conscious but with a wicked sense of humor, sensitive yet resilient, routine-oriented, but an individual to her core.
As she runs into the house, her sister shouts good-naturedly after her,“Yeah, mom only reminded you like fifty-seven times!” I am always surprised at the loud voice that comes out of that little body. My other daughter proves that great things do come in small packages. This petite powerhouse has never met a challenge she didn’t believe she could win. While life comes pretty easy for her, she soaks up every experience to the fullest, and I smile, knowing it was she who reminded her twin of the sunscreen and then did not get angry at her forgetfulness.
In a flash, I feel gangly arms around my body and kisses on my cheeks. We shout our I love you’s again and I yell out, “Be careful” just one more time as I see tiny hands wave straight up in the air so their pink and purple backpacks don’t slip off their narrow shoulders.
And then they are gone.
I miss them already. I miss this time filled with innocence and wonder and imagination, already.
I have no regrets. I know I live in the moment with my kids, relishing every experience and celebrating every first. I will continue to do so.
But, I also know we are at the beginning of the end of an era. It reminds me of reading the last chapter in a great book that I don’t want to finish. I want to know the ending, yet I don’t want it to be done.
I am sad before it even begins.
I finally turn away from the empty road and walk slowly back into the house. Before I even shut the garage door, my phone beeps with a text message from my friend. “They are here!” it says across my screen.
I smile, feeling happy they are enjoying the last moments of summer, as they should at this age. Happy they are old enough to go places by themselves, but still want to climb trees; happy when we eat frozen yogurt with their friends they still want me to sit next to me; happy they want to shower me with hugs and kisses one more time if only because they forgot their sunscreen.
Although I can feel the tears stinging my eyes yet again, this time it is with joy. Because although I am sad knowing it is the beginning of an end, I am grateful to be a part of it, a voracious reader in the story of their lives.
And I sigh, thankful that although this is the last chapter of their elementary years, the next book in the series will be right at my fingertips.