I got a letter the other day from my 3rd grade teacher. Now this is may seem odd to some of you. Maybe you don’t even remember who your third grade teacher was. But this is actually a regular summer occurrence for me.
Mrs. R taught me reading, math, and all the assorted third grade tasks back in a small school in Central PA. She and the other third grade teachers even took all the students on a field trip to Washington DC that year. Mrs. R was also our neighbor as she and her family lived right around the corner from us in our small town. We moved right after that school year but she has never forgotten our family, including us on her Christmas card list for all these years. She kept my parents up to date about events in the old neighborhood and encouraged me and my siblings in all our activities. When I started living on my own and started my own family, she added me to her mailing list for her Christmas cards and her regular rotation of summer letters.
Each time I get a lovely letter from her, I immediately vow to write back to her with details about all the things going on here. And inevitably, I will find her letter weeks later, in a stack of papers and I will kick myself for not taking the time as I had promised. And yet, despite my inconsistent summer responses (I do send her Christmas cards every year), she remembers me and still writes to me. Her commitment to handwritten (not typed) correspondence and maintaining connections with friends always warms my heart. Very Downton Abbey like. How very wonderful to open the mailbox and find something other than a bill or yet another advertisement full of coupons I’ll never use.
This year’s letter came about 2 weeks ago and one of the sentences in there caught me completely off guard. She wrote paragraphs to each of our family members. To our son she wrote, “Can’t believe you’re going to be in 3rd grade, C. That’s what grade your mom was in when I first met her.”
What? What? How can that be?
Yes she was my third grade teacher – but that was like just yesterday, right? How can it be that I’m a few weeks shy of 42 and that my eldest is going into 3rd grade a few weeks after that? He was just born the other day, and the week before that I was just in 3rd grade myself. The age old question of how did time fly by so fast often catches me in the throat and causes a near panic attack.
When I think over moments in my life (large and small), they feel so close to me that they are almost tangible. I still can’t fathom that my friends from high school are now on Facebook, all of us talking about being parents. Because in my head, we’re still those teenagers doing stupid teenage things.
I can’t believe I’ve been married for 13 years to the love of my life because that seems like a ridiculously large number of years to me. It can’t be that long when it seems like Steve and I just met and have yet know each other forever.
There are days I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast. Yet, I look at my kids and wonder how it is that they are no longer in diapers and they can read and write and annoy each other. When they were babies – and they were only 17.5 months apart so they were back to back babies – I read an expression about parenthood that said “Welcome to the shortest years and longest days of your lives.” How true. Days of diaper changes and baby spit up felt like 2400 rather than 24 hours. And yet, I simply turned around and in that split second, they became elementary school kids with long legs and occasional moody attitudes. And I want to hug them tight and put bricks on their heads and go back to the baby powder scented days when they fit in my arms – minus the diapering of course.
And despite all my longing for time to pass more slowly, wishing for it to somehow pause to give me more than seemingly fleeting moments of my kids’ childhood, I am always looking forward to the next race, to count down the weeks of training, and to run faster with each mile. How ironic.
This last week, I was trying to type up my schedule for the fall. I’ll be teaching three classes at the university and I needed to figure out which days are which classes, which days the kids have after school stuff, and all the other stuff we fill our time with. And I put my running on the schedule, right there at 5 am every MWF.
Ugh – 5 am? Yes 5. Why? Because time is speeding by. I have just about 16 weeks until my next (next?!) half marathon – the Rock and Roll 1/2 in Savannah, GA. Sixteen weeks. Four months. Vertiable ages to go before we’re there. I have to get through the rest of summer, the start of school, and Halloween before we’re even there.
Yet, before I know it, I’ll be standing on the start line confused as to how those weeks have sped by so rapidly. I’ll recall all the miles of training and be bewildered that I managed that all in the blink of an eye. Of course, it would be incredible if my legs would speed along so fast as I make my way along the race course. Yet, I’ll be just happy to make it to the finish line. For after Savannah, I have Disney to get ready for again.
And in this way, I’ve tried to mark the future with race stops along the way. Meting out time in intervals between races, weeks between group runs, days between training, and minutes between miles. And despite my occasional gasps at how briskly those moments go by, time is not under my control. I can just do my best to enjoy time at whatever pace it comes my way.
So take time today to catch your breath. Remember those important people in your past. And think about your future, what are your markers along the way? What are you looking forward to and planning for? Or are you going to let it all slide past without looking at it all?