This weekend I had a flare of panic. Not because the laundry pile was perilously high (which it was) or because I had forgotten to look for a new dentist (which I had – again), but because I realized that this was the last weekend of summer.
And I mean the LAST weekend of summer, before Cade starts kindergarten and summers for the next 12 years will be defined by the school calendar, and not the weather. Starting next week, we will be sucked into the machine that will churn us through back to school shopping in July, snow days that that will leave us scrambling for child care, and vacations planned with the precision of a space shuttle launch. The days of picking up and going just because it’s sunny will be gone. The thought made me queasy and a little sad.
So on Saturday morning I announced, “Today we will ride a steam engine train!” It’s no Disney World, but I figured it was good enough to make me feel like I was still harnessing the last bits of summer sunshine. Cade was unimpressed.
C: I don’t want to ride a train!
Me: We’re going.
C: No! You can’t make me.
Me: Buckle up, kid. We’re riding the rails today.
The road to the train station was winding and lovely. Pastoral, even. But every time I turned onto a new country lane, I heard an audible, heavy sigh in the backseat. Cade was done with my bubbly enthusiasm. Over it. I was still in summer mom mode, but he had already zoomed past me into a pre-adolescent ‘tude of sarcasm. He had become, at five, too cool for me. I was kind of proud of him. At the same time, I wanted to cry for the baby that I realized was long gone.
As the steam engine chugged up to the station to pick us up, Cade broke out into a huge, silly grin. He bobbed up and down in his Star Wars sneakers, giddy with the thought of climbing into the coach and watching the farms speed by from the window. My baby isn’t gone, just hidden under bravado and the cool exterior of a boy who wants to be taken seriously as a big kid. I realized then that I don’t have to worry about putting him on the bus next week. He’ll have his buddies at school, the teachers will take good care of him, and he will transition more smoothly than I will.
But it is, surely, the end of something precious and special –in the same way that kindergarten will be a new kind of special. I may not be ready, but the train is leaving the station just the same. All aboard!!