When my oldest was a third-grader, the school year culminated in a mock liftoff where he pretended to be an astronaut. A white tee with a hand-painted NASA logo served as his spacesuit.  His rocket and helmet were homemade, too.

Fast-forward to déjà vu. Today my youngest is moon-bound.  His spaceship looks like it came from an aerospace factory specializing in rubber chicken launches. Other kids have U.S. LUNAR scrolled on their rockets. Ours has U.S. LOONEY.

Three o’clock, the bell rings. Grinning, my youngest skips toward the van, navy back pack swinging from his shoulders.  He’s wearing his own shirt with the NASA logo, pretending to fly the duct-taped rocket.

And I realize. 

I have no more astronauts.

This summer, my oldest will surpass me in height. His voice will leaveSweetBoyVillage and settle in the city limits of Vin Diesel. My youngest will not only advance to fourth grade, he’ll probably sign a NBA contract, judging by his shoe size.

With growth comes the crash of illusions. Last year, they caught me sneaking Easter baskets into their room, expressing skepticism about a giant rabbit’s ability to zip around the earth overnight.

“The Easter Bunny outsourced the jelly bean job to me, boys. That’s the truth.”

“Mom.” My oldest scolds. Someday he’ll be exposing pyramid frauds. “We saw the candy in the closet.”

Oh, I like school projects. Nothing eclipses the adrenaline rush of last-minute scrambling, or the spine-tingling stress of finding a store that might sell a protractor at9:34 p.m.

They’re getting older, though. Soon they won’t need cupcakes for classroom events. I won’t tail my son in a Halloween parade wearing a bent witch’s hat. No longer will I sit in the third row fretting over a musical performance, praying my son’s fidgeting won’t cause a cave-in of the chorus bleachers.

Along the school sidewalks, I see younger moms with toddlers. Once, mine were that little. And I remember “Turn Around,” a 1960’s song Harry Belafonte helped write:

Where have they gone
My little ones, little ones
Where have they gone
My babies, my own

Turn around and they’re young
Turn around and they’re old
Turn around and they’re gone
And we’ve no one to hold

Tested on a group of unsuspecting mothers, “Turn Around” earned a 10 rating on the Sobbing Heap Index. After hearing the song, mothers had to be airlifted to a Kleenex plant until they could regain their composure. 

Yes.  I know. Life moves on. My sons are becoming young men. They still don’t use coasters. I’m just sad because I’ll not have another imaginary blast-off to look forward to, and continue this parenting journey that won’t stop for a mother’s wistful tears. 


[original column appeared in the Pioneer Press, June 2008]

By the way, I guest-blogged at Gem State Writers, courtesy of a friend’s invitation.  Stop by — the range of posts for writers is quite exceptional.

“I loathe the 80’s” — humor column on how younger people sneer at we geezers. 



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