Tonight, as we were praying together with the boys at bedtime, I asked God for a good summer together. As I did, I paused, and looked around me.
It used to be fairly easy to gather up the troops and have fun. A trip to the zoo, a picnic in the park, an outing for ice cream. Things were noisy and chaotic, but we were a team and we traveled together toward whatever it was we set our eyes upon.
These days Tre's like a huge lab puppy, full of energy and joy and eager to please, but given to knocking furniture over. The house doesn't seem big enough to contain him anymore, and although he loves us, he really comes to life when he's with his unbelievably noisy pack of friends.
Max stands in his shadow, aching to be as grown-up and brash as his big brother. He's not quite sure where to put his feet to follow him, but you'd better believe he's searching. When he's most upset with Tre he accuses him of acting like "Mr. MATURE," not wanting to believe that this new near-man isn't an act.
And Raphael remains in the world the three of them used to share, with toys and pretend and games. He's not sure what's happened to his brothers, but lord, is he angry at them for leaving. He needles them every chance he gets, and being the littlest brother, you had better believe he's good at it.
I'm sure I'm idealizing the past, remembering it as easier and sweeter than it ever was. But I look at Tre's school desk, folded against the wall for the summer...for ever... and I feel a wash of panic. Time is moving too fast, and an era that I thought I was safely in the middle of is suddenly over.
I want to spend this summer in the past. I want to gather up my gang of boys, to delight them together with easy joys. I want them to fight in simple, uncomplicated ways, and know that their conflict doesn't threaten their relationships.
But time doesn't seem to go that direction, not even when you have a really good reason for it. And so I finished praying and we said our goodnights.
"Are you okay, Mom?" Tre asked. "You sounded sad when you were praying. About the summer."
"I just want us to have a good time this summer. To have some fun together," I said, my voice light. They moved in close. Sophia was draped across my lap, drowsily nursing, so Raphael planted a foot on my knee, in lieu of climbing in my lap. Max curled against my left side, Tre perched on a foot rest on my right. Clay sat on the other side of Max.
"You know what we should do?' Raphael said, "we should go on a bike ride, all of us. Put Sophia in a trailer and we can all ride around Cherry Creek." We spent a few minutes discussing the logistics of such a ride, and then I shooed them off to bed.
I don't know what the summer will look like. I don't know if we'll ever go on that bike ride. I don't know how we'll work all this complicated-ness out, or what this family will look like on the other side.
But I know I love those people, and I have this summer to share with them.