My son Garrett had just turned 2. It was late summer, and since he was securely strapped into his car seat in the back of our old green minivan, and since I was always about to throw up whatever I had recently eaten (being that I was about 17 months pregnant with Luke) I had put the windows all the way down, rather than the air conditioning all the way up. The fresh air felt amazing. We were on a short drive to get gas, if memory serves, and were swept up in the quick traffic that is Belfast’s in the summer months. At that time, Garrett had very few full sentences he could string together, but was surprising us daily with new ones. “Get me more” was common, “Silly mommy” was another. It was around that time I said, “Oh, Garrett, I love you so,” and he answered, “And I love the Rugrats!” which made me both laugh and cry.
His vocabulary, then, was growing normally, which is to say by leaps and bounds, and, as I’ve mentioned here numerous times before, his actual leaping and bounding was endless (and still is). This was the same summer he hit me in the head with a rock when he was trying to hit the ocean. His body did not stop moving from morning ’til night, and naps were a distant memory. So, back to the window. I put it down. I looked at Garrett in the rear-view mirror. When the breeze hit him, he closed his eyes, tipped his chin into it and sighed lightly. He turned his head, rested it on the side of the car seat, and leaned slightly into the warm air. “Mmm, mommy” he said, “slow down so I can see the wind.”
And we’ve been trying to slow the pace of life ever since.
2014 is over in a breath. I would love to be able to review it month by month, but I don’t remember it that way. I remember that Garrett turned 15, Luke 13 and Natalie 9. I remember I let my hair go gray. I remember we invited a young man from Vietnam to share our life for the year. I went back to graduate school to fulfill a lifelong dream of being a writer, and kept my job as teacher so the bills could keep getting paid. Guy continued working for CIEE, along with coaching and teaching, because, you know BILLS. I remember we had a few days together in Island Falls with my brother’s entire family, our family and my mother – and that it was wonderful. My mother turned 70 and we celebrated with a lobster feast. We got our first family dog and named him Reuben, and he has been, to me at least, a great joy. It seems counter intuitive with all we have going on, but there it is. It was the year we discovered a high rope swing at the local resevoir, the year Guy and I went away together without kids for the first time since Garrett was a toddler, and the year I finally began physical therapy for whatever makes me unable to run. The kids continued to be excellent student athletes and stayed healthy. There is nothing for which I could fairly or in good conscience wish for that would not deem me in damned poor taste. There is no other life for me.
I say farewell to 2014, knowing and understanding in a way I can honestly say I never did before, that this time is gone, and it is never coming back. Garrett is sophomore, and it feels very much like he’s got one size 12 foot out the door already. He starts driver ed in two months and I will rarely be driving him around after that. If I could blink my eyes and live every moment over, I would do so without hesitation. But life is to be lived forwards, not back. We must take the lessons we learn and bring them forward with us. My lessons from 2014 are these: love with an open heart, listen to your kids and give them your full attention when they talk to you, let go of whatever brings out the worst in you, follow your bliss and live life out loud. Do it now. There is no other time.