With a blink- summer’s long lingering days: toes buried under mounds of sand and the warmth of the sun’s setting rays seems a lifetime away. The leaves- the leaves have begun their gentle descent to the earth and the night air- the night air has turned crisp and left my nose cold and red. I truly believe these are the moments intended to ease the soul into the approaching season- gentle nudges that transition the heart and clear the mind to ready for what is to come. For me, I have convinced myself the gentle dance is really a monstrous stampede and the cold does nothing but numb. The quiet I embraced mere months ago will be deafening and the memories that weigh heavy will thrive when the house returns to its quiet hum.

Here in lies the irony- I brace myself for the change of seasons knowing the quiet challenges and reminders sting. And yet- it is not the quiet nor is it the reminders. It is not the fallen leaves my little one insisted on collecting. It is not the first frost she contended was the first snowfall, the small pumpkin that would grace her bedside table or the large one she insisted we pick for Sammy girl. It is not even the back to school traditions, the back-to-back holidays or even the unthinkable that shattered my heart. It is time- will, pray or plead it- time will not stop- nor should it.

Season after season unfolds in its unique way- this one emerging from out of nowhere and landing squarely in a flurry of preparation. A mountain of papers to be completed, adjusting to a full schedule, meetings, reunions, routines and traditions, marks this one. And try as I might, I cannot stop it, skirt it or stuff it. This season, more than any other, smacks the face each time I fill out the school papers and am forced to enter the next number in the natural order, a blatant reminder- my once little brave one is no longer little. This is the season where I will, again, have the arduous task of updating his picture in the frame and place it next to hers- unchanged. A simple task that gets harder by the year as the age difference becomes more palatable. As much as I wish time stop- it cannot- nor should it.

Without fail, this time of year always brings me back to a time that seems a lifetime ago- days when the labored decisions centered on what supplies would fill the backpack, when the night before the first day was almost as sleepless as Christmas eve and when the day culminated in a tired head flopping on my awaiting shoulder. My mind ponders when we were four and begs the question, even if only for minute, what would it be like- what would she, where would she, who would she. What would we have become if her time on earth had not stopped?

And just as fast at it come, the flurry seems to have squarely settled into a familiar routine- one that eight years of back to school has the ability to create. Now my brave one’s tired head flops over a desk and book and the lazy days of summer seem a lifetime ago. Time and opportunities sprawl endless in front of him- empty pages waiting to be filled, dreams longing to be realized, and memories to be accumulated. This morning as he ran out the door he turned to say goodbye and for just a moment he was five, setting sail for the very first time and my little one and I were sending him off. I stood at the window and watched the leaves gentle dance as they made their way to earth. I could almost hear her exasperation as to which is more beautiful. I breathed deep and watch the seasons gentle nudges descend and what I realized is it is not a stampede nor is the time intended to numb. The reminders of when and the moments of now- gentle nudges asking us to pause and embrace, even for a moment, the beauty and grace of which we are afforded.

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