I can't shake the feeling that summer will be over in the blink of an eye. Of course, I know that we still have many months of hot, humid, buggy, pool-filled and popsicle-sticky days ahead of us. But I started teaching summer school today, and it was with a heavy and somewhat sad feeling, mixed incongruously with the tinge of excitement I get whenever a new semester begins, that I got up this morning, made coffee, swept up T. with her tousled, sweet-smelling, bed-head, and planted a kiss on her soft cheek. When I left, T. watched from the front window, shouting "Bye Mama!" over and over again until, I'm sure, my car disappeared down the road. I could almost hear her voice echoing behind me as I drove away.
It's hard to leave. While I wouldn't trade the schedule we have, with all its tag-teaming craziness, the periods in-between--the late mornings, the careless go-with-the-flow planning--make it all the more difficult to pull away and re-enter the rigidity of an actual routine when the time comes, as it inevitably does.
The first year we moved here after graduate school, I stayed home with L., who was then only 11 months old. We lived in a rental house for the first seven months, and Scott was at work all day long, from about 9:00 until 5:30. I threw myself into figuring out ways to keep L. busy and happy in a new environment in a quiet suburb, with no access to a car. We made play-doh, we colored, we read story after story, we walked around the neighborhood doing long, seemingly endless loops around favorite streets so we could look at the houses we liked--me a large blue one with a porch swing, L. a small yellow one with a butterfly flag. When I did get my current job and headed back to work in August of that year, L. had just turned two. Important though the year with him had been to me, I ached inside to get out and work, to do something for myself, to earn some money, see some people, stretch my mind. I went from being with L. exclusively to being away from him for almost six and a half hours. The day I left for work at 7:30, he watched from the living room window, his eyebrows knitted together in puzzlement, his mouth a little "O" shape of confusion.
That morning's parting--the rite of passage it was for me and for him--has stayed with me, I think. The feeling of that moment lies dormant in my psyche and resurfaces each time I resume work again after a break. I don't cry anymore, as I did that first day (and the second and the third and, indeed, all that week), but the outlines of the tears are still there, and the complicated feelings that come from doing something for yourself, at the short-term expense of your child's sense of comfort, never fully vanish.
So this morning's heavy feeling of doom mixed with melancholy, mixed with excitement, is a little about mommy guilt, and a little about the pain of separation. It's hard to leave your kids, with all their both simple and complicated ways; the sheer pureness of who they are and how they pass their days. I miss them, plain and simple.