I was standing outside today, watching the kids play. It was a beautiful, cool fall day. The leaves were swirling around in the wind and the kids were running up and down the driveway. The smell of the air was musty, leafy, wet and so familiar.
I remembered walking through piles of fall leaves as a kid. I watched my grandchildren kicking the pine needles and leaves in front of themselves, and I remembered how the crumbly mix used to remind me of old cereal left in the bowl. I could feel myself back 50 years ago, walking through the neighborhood where I grew up.
As the kids raced by me, shrieking and howling and spinning with that special toddler mix of joy and unbounded energy, I realized that I was standing in Momma alert mode. You know what I mean? Johnny was running off to my right, and Ellie and Ella were off to my left. I stood with my feet apart, my hands clasped behind my back. I could survey the entire yard that way, keeping everyone safe and in my view, while still keeping my distance to let them play.
There was, I swear, a little ripple in the air, and I suddenly realized that I had stood in that very same spot, so many times, watching different children run and play.
For a moment I almost felt dizzy. I looked hard to my right. Where were my little boys, my Matt and Tim, who used to ride bikes up and down this very same driveway? I turned to the left. Where was my baby girl, my Katie? Shouldn’t she be chasing her friend Jessica across the grass on this beautiful day?
I tilted my head back, looking through the branches of the pines at the bright, clean sky.
Of course my little ones weren’t there. They are grown now.
The shrieking, jumping, dancing little whirlwinds in front of me are Kate’s children, and Jessica’s.
The sky is the same. The grass is still my grass. My house stands right where it has stood for all these years. Some of the pines have come down, and there are newer, smaller trees. But the wind is the same, the smell is the same, the crushed brown mixture of cereal bowl leaves and needles is just the very same as it has been for all of my adult life.
I stand in the cool sun, my hands clasped behind my back. I close my eyes, just for a moment, standing perfectly still.
I hear them laughing and calling, I hear those playful voices. In this moment, I am not sure who it is I’m listening to.