© Mitchazenia / CC BY SA 3.0
I always know when it’s coming.
They stop, often mid-sentence, as if frozen in ice. Most often, they are looking at something around the house—something that they haven’t noticed or looked at in a long time. And suddenly their eyes are more like those of middle-aged people that have lost in some important way—distant, reflective, with a hint of deep sadness.
And then, finally, as if in a trance, it comes.
“Dad, do you remember when—”
I struggle with these moments more than I struggle with anything else in life. Not because answering is difficult or because I’m lost or confused, but because it tears me apart inside to see them increasingly world-weary, wise, philosophical, and sad—not kid sad, but adult sad, beneath the surface. Wistful. At ages four and five. Childhood is supposed to be about something else.
But in today’s world, it simply isn’t.
— § —
Just like that, backyard campout is over. Six nights, as it turned out, of backyard camping in a row.
And then, without a hint of discussion or disagreement, after last night insisting on yet another night in the tent with no particular end in sight, tonight both of them chimed in at the same time, just before bed, “Let’s sleep inside tonight!”
So inside we all are.
I have to confess that I feel just a bit wistful myself about the fact that our “backyard campout” has finally and suddenly come to an end. It will be something that I remember about this particular year and this particular summer—and, in the end, about their childhoods—for a long, long time.
But, as fate itself knows, all good things must end.