There have been several evenings, during the past few weeks, when I have been out to dinner with my husband and Cheerio. Just the three of us.
These were not special occasions meant to bestow some individual attention upon Cheerio. No, we were alone with her because Rosebud and Boy Wonder had other places to be. They were out to the movies, or at a school dance, or sleeping over at a friend’s house, or at a volunteer function.
It is during evenings like this when I catch a glimpse of the future. I see a time when, first her sister, and then her brother, move on and away. Not tomorrow, but not in ten years either. Rosebud is as tall as she will ever be, much closer to woman than girl. She has a schedule all her own and grows more and more independent with each passing day. Boy Wonder is taller than both his father and me. His voice sounds deeper and deeper with every word he speaks. He still has years of growth ahead, intellectually and, he hopes, physically. But I can see the pieces of the man he will be falling into place.
If I close my eyes and listen hard enough, I can hear her sing “Once I saw a little birdie going hop, hop, hop…” and I can see her in her little wool coat hopping down the sidewalk with her wings flapping, shaking her tail, “…and far away she flew.”
I can see him, dressed as Buzz Lightyear, launching his little body onto the couch after shouting “To infinity and beyond!”
The road behind us, the one going back into the memory of their early years, is clear and well traveled. But the road ahead into college and adulthood, the one that once seemed so long and winding, has shortened considerably. It no longer feels like the distant future that it once was.
The thing is, when I picture that time, five years down that road, when two of my children will be legal adults, the image of Cheerio remains unchanged. I don’t see her as a teenager that will be driving and dating and going to the movies with friends. I still see the skinny, long-legged ten year old snuggled up beside me in a restaurant booth eating pepperoni pizza while donning the Oscar the Grouch hat her brother got her for Christmas. My mother brain has not yet adjusted to the idea that she is growing up, too – that her days of being little are reduced with each new dawn (and I’m pretty sure the father brain hasn’t made that adjustment yet either).
I know it will come. I know my mind and heart will welcome each stage of Cheerio’s growth as it arrives. I know, because it has done it before. Twice.
But, for now, there will be walks to school with the dog and Oscar the Grouch by my side. There will be Sunday nights on the couch, side by side, watching The Amazing Race. There will be stories shared while lounging in my bed. There will be dressing up and pajama days and swimming in the pool and playing in the snow.
And, of course, there will be cake.