Fortune: Crossing the bright linebetween then and now

Fortune: Crossing the bright linebetween then and now

May 11th, 2014 by By Mary Fortune in Life Entertainment

Usually, we don't get this much warning.

The way it typically goes down is something like this: I notice the kid's pants are suddenly too short. We order some new pants. Life rocks along.

Or he walks over to hug me, and I realize we're eye-to-eye. And I'm a little startled, but then he grins his orthodontically perfected grin and I snap out of it and we all sit down for dinner.

Or I pull T-shirts out of the dryer and can't tell if they're his or his dad's. But I've got laundry to fold, and who has time to stand there ruminating over T-shirts?

And that stuff happens 10 times -- or 20, or 100. I don't know. Who counts? But it's rare that there's a real sense of passing from one place to another. It all just kind of runs together, you know? One long, slow, lovely blur. Usually, the signs aren't this clear.

But on Wednesday, he turns 14 and graduates from eighth grade, leaving behind the school he's attended since he was barely 4. On Wednesday, one part of his life -- of our lives -- definitively wraps up, and another begins to unfurl.

The rare, bright line between then and now.

He was born on Mother's Day and, since he's my first baby, that was the day the version of me called Mom was born, too. She came home from the hospital carrying him so carefully, and we were both brand-new and bewildered.

"I don't know what I'm doing," I wept to my husband as that baby wailed and wailed into the wee hours.

"It's OK; I don't either," he said gently, and we took turns walking the creaky floor and swaying and making those instinctive shushing sounds you make that you don't even know you know how to make until a tiny baby is wailing against your chest.

And then the long, lovely blur. A million peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Dozens of pairs of pants suddenly too short. So many pictures I forgot to label and now we can't remember: Is he 3 in that one? Or 4?

Last Sunday night, he came back from playing 18 holes of golf and announced he'd broken 80 for the first time. We all piled into the car for a celebratory dinner out, and he wore his golf clothes, even though he'd had them on all day.

"This is my breaking-80 outfit," he laughed.

When we go to restaurants, he and I always sit together because we're the lefties. The day I realized my first baby had inherited that quirk from me, he was in his high chair, smearing yogurt gleefully around the tray. I placed a spoon in front of him, and he snatched it up with his sticky left hand.

On Wednesday, each graduating eighth-grader will make a short presentation, summarizing their best memories of their school, thank their teachers, acknowledge their friends. They'll tell everyone where they're heading for high school in August, and we'll all step over that bright line.

"Are you nervous about your presentation?" I asked during a recent ride to school.

"Not really."

"Are you ready for it?"

"Not yet, but I will be."

Well, baby, I guess that makes one of us.

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