My oldest son, Adam, sits happily at the top of the heap right now. He’s a fifth grader, which is the last year of elementary school in our district. He and his fifth-grade cohorts rule the school, getting all kinds of additional privileges (which Adam loves) and additional responsibility (which he often doesn’t).
“Hey, mom,” he said, a few days ago, just after coming home from school. “I have something to show you.” He reached into his backpack and pulled out a t-shirt – the t-shirt the fifth graders had ordered earlier in the year, and about which I had promptly forgotten.
On the front was the name of the school, and the district logo. On the back was a list of names – all one-hundred (or so) kids.
And at the top, in giant font, was emblazoned the words: “CLASS OF 2016”.
I smiled and told him that it was a very big deal, to have your “class of” designation written down on something as official as a t-shirt. He was very excited, and I was thrilled for him.
But just as soon as he left the room, I think I may have actually clutched my heart.
Oh, please, no. Class of 2016?
I know I’m on the downhill side of his years at home. He’ll be twelve this year; mathematically speaking, we’re two-thirds of the way done (a trembly thought, as I wonder if I’ve managed to teach him two-thirds of the things I want him to know). Honestly, I’m enjoying Adam so much at this age that I don’t often dwell on the heartache of the minutes and days and years flying by. He’s a great kid. I want to relish that, not wallow in sentimental anguish.
But that shirt. For a simple piece of 100% cotton, it surely has banged my heart around this week. It is entirely too concrete of a reminder for me. It hangs in my laundry room at this very minute, freshly laundered and ready to be worn on the back of my lanky boy. And every time I walk past it, I swear, I think I hear a clock ticking. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Two-thirds. Two-thirds.
Jarring reminders of the passing of time will happen, of course, and I suspect they’ll happen more often now that I find myself in the last “third” of this season. I suppose I should brace myself. But I won’t live in sadness. Because there’s a tall, skinny, almost-twelve-year-old boy living under my roof, right at this very moment. He likes comic books and swimming and my mashed potatoes. He hates math and is drawn to holey socks. He snarfs milk out of his nose way too often, and he never remembers to switch over the laundry. He’s picky about toothpaste, but never about clothes, and he laughs easily. He’s almost as tall as me. His room is a mess. He’s kind to his sister.
Go away, ticking shirt. I will enjoy every single minute with that boy.