By the time I was 10, my four older brothers and sisters were already away at school. Thanksgiving vacation meant they would come home and be, once again, with my sisters and me. I was in awe of how grown-up they seemed. They were living in dorms, away from home, away from Mom and Dad. They had long papers to write, long books to read; they weren’t made to do the dishes or take out the trash. They were on vacation. Would I ever be that grown up?
This week our four “children” (18 to 36 years old) are coming home, home to my husband and me. How did I get this old?
So this poem is poignant for those of us whose child-rearing days are behind us, and our children are off to their lives away from us. I think you, as a young parent, can feel the poignancy too.
They Drive Through Childhood in Their Little Cars
Loving them, we love nothing, no one,
if not change, as they drive through childhood
in their little cars, steering so seriously into the future
while we follow a few steps behind, tripping through
days and weeks and years, watching as they
suddenly speed up, without a glance backward,
without waving goodbye.
Not to grow older! Not to grow up!
Once, safe in my kingdom of cocoa, I wished
for that, but years pushed me roughly out the door.
I drove away in my little silver car, gripping
the wheel too tightly, steering so seriously
into the future, without a glance backward,
without saying goodbye.
Older now, we know, if we know nothing else
that we love them as they were, and are,
though what they are keeps changing. We can’t keep up.
How seriously they pedal their little cars into a future
we won’t be part of. In a moment, a turn ahead
will take them out of sight as we follow, follow for dear life,
practicing our goodbyes.
By Elizabeth Spires
From her book of poems, A Memory of the Future, 2018