This past General Conference marked the last time Gabe will spend the Saturday evening Priesthood session with Mary and me. We usually get dinner, go to the park, watch a movie together. I remember so clearly Erik heading off to Priesthood when Ben was a toddler and thinking, “Some day Ben will be big enough to go with him.” And here I am on the cusp of my fifth son turning twelve, joining the big boys.
If we skip our morning ritual, Gabe will complain, “I’m hug deprived.” After school he throws his arms around my waist before running off to play, “I was running low on hugs.” he explains.
I think I’ll always be able to claim at least a half-hearted hug, but the days of Gabe snuggling during a movie or holding my hand as we walk through the neighborhood are coming to a close. I’m savoring every minute. All the old ladies proffering advice are right– they grow up too fast.
It’s not that I don’t love teenagers and young adults. Witnessing my boys learn and progress and become themselves, awards me daily. I love calling Ben for advice, listening to Hans expound on science or history, asking Xander for help with math and reading Stefan’s adventures in Russia. In some ways I can hardly wait to see who Gabriel and Mary will be.
But childhood holds enchantment, fleeting and impossible to grasp like fairy wings in the garden. My friend Catherine just wrote about magic (and I promise this post was already in my drafts– we just happen to think alike) including this quote:
“We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up…The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good… Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don’t know it’s happening until one day you feel you’ve lost something but you’re not sure what it is. It’s like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you ‘sir.’ It just happens.”
– Robert R. McCammon, Boys’ Life
Thankfully, we have children and grandchildren to reawaken the magic within us; I intend to keep sprinkling fairy dust over my children, cultivating their sense of wonder and innocence. Last night I walked into Mary’s room to find her surrounded my Oz books (a legacy from my mother’s father), a tiara on her head and a tutu pulled over her pajama pants. In the next room, Gabe sprawled on the floor, acting out six different parts with his Legos. Yes, I’m sure he’ll continue to build Lego sets as a teenager and adult, but will he spend hours acting out complicated stories with his tiny plastic friends?
Sometimes as parents we want to speed up the process, or we grow practical (“Parties don’t matter”– but they do, oh, they do), especially with our oldest child (sorry about that Ben. But you still had a pretty magical childhood, yes?). But now I’m trying to slow it all down, cling to the last bits of enchantment before it drifts away.
When I told Mary this was our last conference with Gabe, she began to cry. And now I’m crying. I know I will love the man he will grow to become, especially since he tells me he’ll have ten kids and live next door, but I also know, forever, even when I am old and grey, I’ll miss him curled in my lap, his wild blond hair under my chin, holding me tight for a morning hug.