The Shortest Long Days

growing up
Nicolas McComber / iStock

I rush out of the office. My afternoon is a tight fit, and being last out of the parking lot would cost me a few precious minutes. It’s a 15-minute car ride to day care, and I go over logistics in my head. Uniform for 5-year-old tee ball player: check. Diaper bag for baby: check. Snacks for all of us: check. Caffeine for me: check. OK, we’re good to go.

I run into the day care center, little cleats in hand. They are tight and tricky to get on. There’s a flurry of tugging and stretching that leaves both of us slightly sweaty and wild-eyed. Well who am I kidding—since having these two boys I have spent most of my days slightly sweaty and wild-eyed.

We grab the baby (who desires only to stick his fingers in my mouth and repeatedly say “mout”) and load up. Chips and sippy cup distributed, gas pedal pushed, and we are on the way. The discussion ranges from gym class to boogers. I am half-listening and half-daydreaming of my DVR and couch. It’s already been a long day.

Just then two ambulances blaze past, sirens screaming into the air. They are going through red lights and speeding. I feel a shiver of fear down my spine, until I hear “Mom, let’s pray for whomever is hurt.”

Such a sweet boy.

Time slows as we pray aloud for the injured. With a last-minute “oh yeah, please watch out for my little brother,” the sacred moment is over and conversation careens back to some schoolyard story.

Gravel crunches under tires as we pull into the baseball complex, and again we’re on the move. Baby is planted in the stroller. Bat bag, diaper bag and water are dragged out, and we make our way to the fields. My athlete’s coltish legs bounce and skip. He tosses his water bottle in the air and it catches the sunlight like a prism. A rainbow of light illuminates his face, and for one brief moment, his beauty takes my breath away.

But in a flash, he is gone, sprinting to join his friends—growing up and out.

Like a pack mule, I make my way to the stands where we set up to watch the spectacle that is tee ball. It’s only 5:45 p.m., but it feels like it took hours and Herculean effort to get here—to the fields five miles from our house. I think longingly of home and sleep.

I sneak-eat candy from my purse while baby tracks brother and babbles incoherently. The players wrestle and frolic while coaches and parents yell last minute instructions. The whole game is cinematic. There is injury (a ball to the face) and tragedy (striking out). For an hour, these tiny warriors strive and struggle, and emerge either victorious or defeated on their own turf. It’s their battlefield and that red dirt is hallowed ground to them.

But transitions are fast, and once the game ends, they chase each other around erratically, like deranged bumblebees. The adults corral and steer the little honeys to their respective cars.

Onward to home.

Next comes the chaos of dinner, baths, (attempted) homework, and finally bedtime. The baby’s chest slowly rises and falls in slumber as he rests on my lap. Wet hair sticks to my big boy’s forehead. He snuggles up to us in his pajamas as I read a bedtime story. My child who looked so grown up and heroic on the field looks so sweet and small now.

He drifts off to sleep before I can finish the book. I sit and look at both little faces, and my heart breaks in their perfection. The stress of rushing and fatigue fades away as I hold their tiny hands. They both seem to be growing up right before my eyes, limbs stretching and faces thinning out in real time. Tears spill down my cheeks as I see the future rushing forth.

My husband gets home from his 12-hour day and walks into the house. He sees my wet face and one eyebrow goes up. In a careful voice he says: “Hey, honey. Are you OK? Did something happen?”

And all I can say is this:

“I’m fine. I just can’t believe today is already over.”