While on vacation a few years back we spent a day at a water park. Not one to relish roller coasters and other such daredevilry, I nonetheless found myself relenting to familial peer pressure and agreeing to a large raft ride several stories high with many a twist and turn, great speed, and, oh yes, much fun (fun?!?).
After standing in line for too long (or not long enough, depending on one’s perspective at the given moment), the four of us, me and my husband and two youngest boys, climbed into the raft, grabbed on for dear life and hurtled forward and down the slide. My youngest son, knowing well my unease, nay my dislike, for all things daring and fearsome, yelled assurances to me the whole way down. “We’re almost there, Mama! Not much further! I see the end! Hang on, Mama! Hang on! It’s almost over!” And he was right. It was, finally, over, and we emerged from the landing pool exhilarated and, despite my initial misgivings, none the worse for wear.
I did not, however, ride again.
These past couple of weeks have felt much like that water ride: I plunge forward, swept away by forces beyond my control, caught on a dipping, twisting ride that will end in a singular, spectacular splash. Twists and turns, absolutely. Ups and downs, to be sure. Fun, you bet. Scary, oh yes, that too. There’s no time to think; I barely grab hold and hang on as life barrels me ever forward. I am spinning and surging with the sort of frantic, frenetic frenzy that leaves me breathless, my heart caught between excited exhilaration and fearful dread. My husband and I call assurances to each other over the surrounding din: “It’s almost over! I see the end! Hang on!” and sometimes we shout it with an elated fist pump, other times we whisper it with tears filling our eyes and hearts protesting.
Our boy, our firstborn, graduates in a few weeks and moves away from home a couple of months after that. It doesn’t seem possible. Wasn’t he just in fourth grade? Like last year? Time, it flies.
Oh, wow, what a ride. So much excitement. So much joy. So much to be grateful for. So much to be humbled by. And, yes, so much to do and to decide and to plan. All that plus laundry too.
That line for the ride at the water park seemed so long to me, interminable even. It was hot and miserable; I was hot and miserable. We weren’t moving, not very fast, a snail’s pace if that, certainly not quickly enough, not by my estimation. To say it was boring was an understatement. I was anxious and impatient, eager to move forward, ready to get it over with already. I didn’t like the waiting, not in the least, and looked with great longing toward the cool refreshment of the pool at the end of the slide and even on to the lunch that would follow not long after.
However, we did, finally, make it to the top much more quickly than I anticipated, and then, just like that, the ride was over, all that waiting finally concluded, quick-as-a-blink.
I’ve spent many a day feeling caught in similar tedium: waiting, wishing for the next stage, bored by the day’s mundane ordinariness. I looked ahead with more impatience than eagerness, listless and dull, frustrated by my seeming inertia. I wanted to go and do; instead I thought myself stuck and stranded. Laundry to fold, dishes to wash, lunch to make, supper to cook, books to read, swings to push, diapers to change, more laundry, errands to run, spankings to give, questions to answer, tantrums to quell, and, yes, more laundry. And go to bed and get up the next day and do it all over again. And again.
And now I’ve made it to the top. I’m crashing forward, I’m hanging on, I glimpse the end rushing toward me, and I know that suddenly, soon, quick-as-a-blink, this part of our lives will be over. As I brace for that spectacular splash and anticipate the joy and exhilaration that will follow, I see what I couldn’t see before: how quickly time flies, how precious those ordinary, waiting days were, and how priceless the opportunity, the privilege, was and is.
And I know for sure and for certain I’d do it all over again.