Right Here

Parenthood in one sentence:

“Where did the _______ go?”

Four times this morning:
Where’d the dog leashes go?
Where’s the almond flour I just bought?
Where’s your blanket? (In the dishwasher, Mom.) Why? (It was just really really filthy, Mom.)

And the last, the given, the one sure thing:
Where did the time go?

We plan an early Friendsgiving in these parts every November, usually of the pajamas/pizza/board games/paper plates variety. But this year, there’s a new baby to celebrate and the kids are older and I don’t know, should we make it fancy? Festive? A real grown-up celebration?

On a sunless day, I search for the crushed linen tablecloth, my grandmother’s flatware, the flameless candles. I preheat the oven and chop the rosemary. Bee runs into the kitchen.

Can I borrow the flashlight? she asks.

Right drawer, I say.

I fold napkins, wipe down wine glasses, check the time. Bee reappears in a flash.

I think it’s out of batteries, she says.

Where did the batteries go?

She tells me she’s having a dinner party with her friends, with her very favorite stuffed animals. There are books and snacks and a flashlight for reading and Mom, would you like to join us? We’re making shadow puppets!

I know to say yes. I know the dinner party prep can wait, that our friends won’t mind a slight delay, that these moments, these surprise invitations will come fewer, more far between as the years pass.

I would love to, I say. But I need to finish dinner.

The afternoon fades; our friends will be here soon. I switch the playlist to The Sweeplings, reach for lip gloss, change a diaper, pour the merlot. As I clean the counters and ready a cheese plate, I see the pile of unused batteries on the dining room table. How long had it been since I replaced the flashlight batteries? Three years? Four?

Where did the time go?

I know I’ll ask myself this again and again and again. I know time will pass sooner than I realize, sooner than I’d like. I know we’ll all have grown the next time I polish my grandmother’s old forks, the next time I replace the flashlight batteries. I know the minutes between will slip by unnoticed, unmarked.

Unless, of course…

I wash my hands, dry them on a flour sack, head to the dining room.

Changed my mind. I say, peeking beneath the linen tablecloth. Is there still room for me at your party? 

(There is.)

Later, our friends barrel through the door, cheeks flushed from the cold. The unmade cheese plate is made and we sip wine as we recount busy weeks filled with opportunities both seized and given away. Dinner is served, tasted, devoured. Conversations are rich and scattered, dotted with frequent interruptions from toddlers. Marriage and Syria and Mom, did you know frogs don’t even have outside ears?

The kids clean their plates, scamper off to the basement to play. We finish our sentences, our wine. Soon, it’s midnight.

Where did the time go?

I know what my mother would say. As a child, when I’d lose anything – Where are my swim goggles? I can’t find my science book! – she’d respond simply:

Where did you last see it?

And I suppose that’s the answer, isn’t it? To see it. To pay attention. To watch time march on with or without our involvement, with or without our permission. To notice when we change the flashlight batteries, to acknowledge a toddler’s tea party invitation, to say Yes, yes, I’ll be there – can I bring you a scone?

To let the cheese plate go unmade, to crawl under a dining room table and rehearse the best alligator shadow puppet there ever was.

To be able to answer the simplest question – Where did you last see it? – with the simplest answer:

Right here.




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