Some people, it is said, feel the passing of time more deeply than others. While others cheerfully celebrate birthdays, graduations and the like, the deep-feelers tend to mourn these milestones. Rather than viewing them as opportunities to rejoice in a life well-lived, they see them instead as markers along the inevitable road to death. If you’re not one of these people, you might not even be aware of their existence. Yet they silently live among us, pretending to be regular human beings when they are anything but, just like
When I turned ten, I almost had a nervous breakdown over the idea that in another ten years, I would be an ancient, shriveled up, twenty year-old. When I hit twenty-nine, I didn’t leave my bedroom for almost a week. The finale of Six Feet Under, which showed the way in which all of the characters would one day die, got me going on a four-day crying jag, and haunts me still. My husband likes to joke that when I turn forty, he’s going to put me on a twenty-four hour suicide watch. But none of that comes even close to how devastated I become each May and June, May and June being, respectively, the double whammy of Harper’s birthday, and the end of school.
There’s something about my children getting older that affects me like nothing else. For whatever reason, I feel as if my time with them is not just fleeting, but also limited – that someday, sooner that I even realize, the sweet, delicious, relationships that we have are going to come to a sudden and abrupt end – and I mourn the passing of each year and each phase of their lives just as if a close relative has died. You may recall the total wreck I was last year at this time, when Harper turned five and then graduated from preschool a month later. Or the pathetic puddle that I was at the end of the summer, when she was about to start Kindergarten and officially become a Big Kid. A few weeks ago, on the night before her sixth birthday, I sat on the edge of her bed while she slept, crying my heart out over the fact that she would never again be five years old. And then there’s this Kindergarten thing.
At the beginning of the school year, when I was still mourning the loss of our carefree, preschool days, I totally resented Kindergarten. There was homework, and there was reading, and math, and full days, from eight to three. I felt as if I was being robbed of my little girl before her time. It took me a while to come around, but I finally realized that while I saw Kindergarten as something for Big Kids, the school was still treating her as a little kid. Yes, they go for a full day, but they have snack, and rest time. They have their own little kindergarten play yard to keep them away from the scary, real big kids. And while they did learn to read and to write, they did it with kindergarten spelling, which is just about the cutest thing ever. Harper’s teacher told me in the beginning of the year that kindergarten was magical, and it’s only now that it’s ending that I’ve finally realized she was right.
Which brings me to the Kindergarten Celebration show that Harper’s class put on last week; it recapped everything they’ve learned this year, and concluded with the entire kindergarten class singing Rainbow Connection and It’s a Wonderful World. I usually try to hide the deep-feeling side of myself from people, mostly so that they don’t become afraid of me and my rampant morbidness. But when a bunch of six year-olds are singing about how they “hear babies cry and watch them grow,” all bets are off.
As always happens when this side of me rears its ugly head in public, the non-deep feeling parents stare at me and the giant box of tissues on my lap, wondering why the hell anyone would possibly be so upset about a kid finishing kindergarten. And I envy them. I really do. I wish I could go through life being happy about happy things, instead of seeing them as minutes on some giant clock that is ticking down the rest of my life. Some might argue that I don’t really feel anything more deeply than others, but that I’m just a pessimist who perpetually sees the glass half empty, or who sees the end of kindergarten not as a step forward, but as one less year that I get to have my daughter. And maybe they’re right.
But this is who I am, and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will, singlehandedly, keep several tissue companies in robust business for a long time to come. If you’re a deep feeler like me, then I know you understand. And if you’re not, well, congratulations. I’ll try not to remind you that in just a blink of an eye, we’re all going to be dead.