Oh no – I think I blinked!

A mother’s parody on children growing up

One Saturday evening after a particularly difficult week I pulled up my phone to look at my Facebook feed only to throw it back down much like a hot potato. When I began sobbing uncontrollably my daughter traded rolls with me and held me in her arms to ask me what was the matter. 

“I blinked,” I sobbed into her shoulder. 

“You what?” She asked as I was unintelligible. “I don’t understand. Is everything okay?”

“Oh no-” I sobbed , “I think I blinked!”

“I don’t understand,” she repeated.

So between tears I explained that the picture on my Facebook feed of my niece and nephew fingerpainting at the table was wrong. It threw  me back 20 years earlier to when we used to have table time activities. Now look here she was doing a complete role reversal  on me. And I’m pretty sure I blinked. Somehow I missed when the children at the table had changed. It had all happened much too quickly. Now my despair at aging had just been escalated like the Richter scale of earthquakes!

For the first 10 years of my life our family lived in northern South Dakota. Herried  was just 7 miles from the North Dakota border on highway 83. We moved next to the opposite end of the state to Herrick. There we lived just 7 miles north of the Nebraska border on a very gravel road. It was during this time frame that I became aware of the broader world. Often we would take the road less traveled and I would hear comments like these: we are coming up to such and such town or here’s the hole in the road place or if you blink you’ll miss it. Places like Artas and Mound City  were replaced with ones like Lucas and Clearfield. 

One  such place was Saint Charles an old stop on the railway line that now was nothing more than a church steeple, an old log general store, and once thriving elevator for local farmers. It’s steeple protruding above the tree line is an image I can recall easily.  I remember holding my eyes open  until they seemed to hurt from dryness. The trail of dust behind us could obscur the once visible so quickly. Oh how I didn’t want to blink and miss something important that everyone else would talk about and I had not seen. 

Last week the soybeans in the field changed colors. They are the first of natures markers for fall in our area. The leaves turn from green to yellow to gold to rust and then brown dryness gives way to a barren pods only twig. When Lennea was in high school she captured a photo of snow and ice on the unharvested bean pods. It was the early snow that devastated many cattle ranchers in our state.  We used the photo on a calendar for the following year. That picture is burned in my memory bank. 

The day that I missed the seemingly overnight color change I was reminded of my childhood fear blink and you’ll miss it. 

One of the toys I had as a child was called the viewfinder. The pictures are on a little disc which when slid into the finder can be seen by clicking a lever on the side. The pictures are so tiny on the little disc but become larger than life when the viewfinder is placed up  to the eyes. It’s magnifying power entrancd me. I remember staring at those pictures and clicking the lever over and over and over to watch the scene before my eyes change. As a child the little gadget was nearly the same as  watching out the car window on trips. On occasion however the lever would only get pushed halfway and the picture could be stuck between frames. Here there was nothing but darkness. 

 As a teenager I was diagnosed with our family’s genetic RP.  The eye doctor was so alarmed at the rapid digression of my  cones. He warned my parents I might be blind within five years.    They began doing field vision tests on me which were ancient in practice compared to the much easier visual photos they take now of the retina. I hated these field tests for I felt that I was always missing the little red dot. I wasn’t even blinking and I was missing it. 

The fear of missing things or not remembering a scene before me has traveled with me. I often find myself staring at the scene before me trying to capture the image lest I never forget how something looks. I wonder like my relatives before me who have gone blind if someday I will blink and nothing will be there anymore. Will it be like that childhood viewfinder who’s frame is stuck between images ? 

Recently I saw an exaggerated passage of time sign that read something like this: Fall is here that means it’s nearly October and it’s practically Thanksgiving and Christmas is next week!  This warped calendar parody made me think of the childhood fear that I’d had of  blinking and missing some important mile marker. Using landmarks for whereabouts while driving is not quite the same as using which children are at the table for telling one’s age. However exaggerated my feelings had been, that’s exactly what I had just experienced. And so for some reason it also reminded me of the best advice I had ever received on parenting. 

The second night after my first daughter was born God sent me the best nurse that I could’ve had. She spent all night walking and talking with me after my surgical birthing experience. She gave me this advice: 

“Don’t ever talk about your child as being in stages.  Don’t say things like I can’t wait till this stage is over. Or when this stage is passed things will be better.  Don’t curse your children with the terrible two’s or the awful teenage years.  Your child’s life is not some stage you must endure. Enjoy each phase of growing and learning. Live in the moment otherwise you’ll never enjoy the journey of your daughters growing up. Because you’ll blink and one day she’ll be gone. The growing up stage will disappear and the curtains will be pulled shut forever.”

 I never forgot her wise wee hours of motherhood advice. 

Most of us have had that instant Kodak moment when something looks vaguely familiar. Oddly enough time has warped in lightspeed fashion and our brain waves tell us: that reminds me when…

So I was reminded of my own children and their table time activities when I saw a picture of my niece and nephew. So what you might say, we’ve all had things like that. Some how  for me it was more than just a snap shot moment. My Facebook feed had become my adult viewfinder. I had that incredible overwhelming emotion that told me I had just blinked. The past 20 years have been reduced to a blink. Now I knew that nurse had been right. My children were no longer on the growing up stage. The curtains had shut and then reopened to reveal a different set of children at table time. 

Oh yes – I think I blinked!

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