Big Times and Little Things

When I am 10, I name my children. I design my house. I imagine the town in which I will live.

The children will be one of each, a boy and a girl. The house will be pink. The town will have sidewalks.

When I am 20, I have doubts. And a career. And a feeling that maybe pink houses and sidewalks. Maybe children, even one of each, are not for me.

When I am 30, I wonder. My friend gives me a mix tape. Because that is what we do then. One song is special. Big Times in a Small Town. It is by James Mee. If home is where the heart is, this is where I’m bound. Big times in a small town.

When I am 40, I have my third child. A boy! Oh boy! He is messy and stubborn. He is scatter-brained. And he is perfect. Which is good, because his brothers? They are perfect, too. Frustrating, annoying, nag-provokingly perfect.

Now I am 50 (3…but who’s counting?) and I wake up early. I exercise. I sit for coffee. I read the news. My sons leave for school and it is a whirlwind of activity and then it is over.  And they are out.

Today, the windows are open and I hear Emily. She is the little girl who lives in the house next to ours. She is not so little anymore. When she was 4, she hid behind her mom’s legs. Now she is 10. And she is loud. I like to hear Emily, laughing and yelling. I hear smiles in her voice. And donuts. On this day, I hear many Emilys, friends of Emily, as they prepare to celebrate their last week of school.

Elementary School. Middle School awaits.

I watch, with my coffee, as they head down the street. Their hair sprayed the school colors of red and white. Allowed only on School Spirit day, and only by big kids, like Emily. I smile, but with tears, too. I remember my own boys on that same walk, not too long ago. But also very long ago.

Emily is not the last to take this final Elementary School walk down this sidewalk in front of my house. Many Emilys will follow, celebrating being not so young and not so old. I am happy to see this Emily, this one I know so well.

The dog pleads, so I clip on his leash. I head to the sidewalk, the one that belonged to Emily moments ago, to meet my dog walking friends. It is a ritual. We say the dogs need the exercise, but really it is us. We need the talk. And we start right in, without a hello or a good morning. We have much to say, my dogs friends and I. Our kids grow up together. Make mistakes together. Succeed together. And we need to discuss it. More than once. Many times. Together. The dogs are patient. They’ve heard it all.

Another friend appears across the street. Where is your blog entry?, she calls to me. You are late this week. Soon, I tell her. I will cry, she says. That is good, I smile to her. And she goes, to meet her walking friends, who she will greet without a hello. And discuss all that is relevant. And all that is not.

The dog is tired, I bring him home. I notice the little boy across the street, waiting for the garbage truck. He makes the truck sound, the universal little boy truck sound. He is sitting on his steps, with his mom. I smile.  There is a new baby, dressed all in pink. Now you have one of each, I say.

I was his mom, I think. With my little boy, sitting on my steps, making that truck sound. Just a minute ago, a lifetime ago.

I go in to start my day in my small town, which is not a town at all but a city of many people, squeezed into a small space. Altogether, with me. It is not always this idyllic, this city-town of mine. Rain prevents walks. Snow shortens them. Homework trumps after school play. Misunderstandings interfere with friendships. But today is good. I like that.

When the school day ends, the boys run out. To the sidewalk, yes. But not home. They have plans. They go. To basketball, baseball, after school jobs, sports practice. To the market to get candy that is bad for their teeth and not allowed by their orthodontist. They meet the girls along the way, I am sure. Future Emilys. Older and wiser Emilys.

They have many adventures, my boys. Things they will not recall when I inquire about their day. But they are having fun, I know. I hope. Maybe I’ll hear something important. Or interesting. Just a little. If I am patient.

And then the door slams, three times. They are home. Hungry and tired. Missing backpacks and sweatshirts. A grin on the face of the oldest.  Chocolate and dirt smeared over every inch of  the youngest. The middle boy kicks off his shoes.

My house is not pink. My children are not one of each. My town is a city, but one with sidewalks. And I belong here. Finally. You can almost hear it breathing, if you know the sound. Big times in a small town.

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