The little one's blonde curls gleam in the twilight as he peddles his trike fast. The young'un with new skates asks for help with a buckle, so I kneel before him while the gravel bites my 41-year-old knees.
42 next week.
I stand up slowly and watch the five children slide up and down the driveway as the daylight dims and can't help but recall the young, young years, when I thought I had all the time there was to do whatever I liked. The days on our shady street crept by so slowly that I had plenty of time to wonder if Miss Piggy would be on my cake and whether Mom would make the seven minute icing so I could taste what love is.
I am almost 42 and my knees ache and every day I bow before skate buckles and laundry and bills and spilled juice on the new rug. I have no more chances to decorate my bike with crepe paper and parade the block with all my friends in tow.
I am old and serious now.
I do not skip down the street to piano lessons while eating homemade cookie dough or play hide and seek in the wide gutters along my sheltered road. I no longer daydream on a velvet couch about what my husband will look like and whether I'll have a girl and yes, if I do, I shall name her Amanda Jane and her eyes will be brown, just like mine.
Instead, I grip the phone in grief when I learn my best friend has cancer and bang my palm on the table when I hear about another broken-apart marriage. I cry over private heartaches of those I love and the shortening breaths of a grandfather much adored.
The candles--they glow dimmer at 42.
So I feel content to sit in the strange coolness of a summer evening and watch happy children skate. When they fall, I know gratitude that their only care today is a skinned knee and who is the fastest and what's for dinner. I watch the treeline darken and the sky glow blue and, when I see the jet shooting a glistening thread overhead, I am reminded of you, God.
At 42, I accept that sweet-smelling baby curls will never come my way again. I have been entrusted with five treasures, and I will try to raise them to be noble men and women who eventually park their skates and board the planes and leave this home in a golden streak of light.
At 42, I know the answers to much of my story, making it easier to release the carefree days that were filled with childlike wonderings about the future. I live here, in this house, with these children and their carefully-given names. I relish each day of marriage to a man who has loved me for 23 years and who has gained my respect through integrity and wisdom.
As I put away stray balls, I watch my husband turn into home and travel the long driveway with children running behind. The car door flings open and the littlest one shouts "Dada!" and stretches his arms as wide as they can go. Five sets of hands jostle for a touch or a hug and the dog barks from behind the glass pane because she knows who is home.
Following them inside, I walk up the porch, open the heavy door, and cross the threshold to begin dinner. Inside I feel peace.
For the rest of the story, it's now only beginning.