Well, it’s happened again and I missed it. I turned down Rawson the other day, and the trees there were definitely fall-ish. Not majority fall-ish mind you, but the seasonal corner had been turned. Despite my best efforts and intentions to notice it this year, once again I blinked during the slight course-correction that marked this veering into autumn.
It is one of those miniscule changes, a tiny, ephemeral, imperceptible shift that markes the borderline between one and the other. I miss it every spring, too, when I set the goal to notice the moment when the trees are more green than bare. I’ll mentally catalog the increasing spray of green over the winter-bare branches, waiting until that aha! moment when it’s tipped over into spring. I always miss it. Same with sunsets, the halfway point of an ice cream cone, and the moment during a party when it’s peaked and starts to head downhill.
Maybe it’s not so much that we can’t sense these moments, but that our brains can hold onto the enormity of the moment. The best word for them, therefore might be imponderable.
One time when the girls were both still young, we waited near the baggage carousel at O’Hare. These were the days of a stroller, diaper bags, and relatively useless kids. Sure the older one carried her sippy cup, but I was still in full on sherpa mode while Jimmy waited to snag a few more bags. I’m sure my face looked exhausted. Perhaps that’s why a woman came over to chat with me–motherly solidarity in face of the hell that is an airport with kids. She was perhaps 20 years older than I was, and had a nice, relaxed, sensible face. She commented on the girls’ adorableness (true), and how traveling with kids is not for the faint of heart (also true). She was waiting to pick up her adult son.
“You know, I can’t remember the last time I held him,” she said. “You spend all those days and nights just doing it, thinking it will never end. But one of the times it will be the last time, and you just won’t notice it. I don’t remember the last time I held him, I wish I did.” She smiled a little sadly and looked up to wave to the tall young man coming down the escalator, hands entwined with a young woman–he belonged to her now, I suppose. The woman turned to say goodbye and “I know it’s silly to say, but enjoy it. You won’t realize when it’s ending.”
I’ve gone back to that bittersweet memory often, fully intending to note the last time I picked the girls up. I tried to pick Evie out of bed this morning and I couldn’t–and I don’t remember the last time. Another imponderable slipped past, like summer into fall.