Leaves in the Pool
By Lillian Michelle
My mother-in-law bought the kids a pool membership this year. Well, she bought the family a membership to the pool. What a fantastic gift! We have spent a lot of time there in this thick North Carolina heat cooling off and making friends.
The best part about joining a pool is that you can have fun and then go home without all the hassle of maintaining it. They have a diving board and a water slide. Plus, there is just about always someone there to play with. That is the real gift. This mama enjoys playing with her kids, but it is also nice to just watch sometimes. Our watery oasis sits in an older neighborhood in the heart of town. It is very convenient, and the other members are friendly.
Today, as we drove toward the pool, we could not help but notice the leaves beginning to coat the lawns of the neighborhood homes. Elizabeth even interrupted “Patch the Pirate” to point them out from the back seat.
These leaves are attributed to the recent lack of rain more than our closing in on the fall, but I still cringed a little as I acknowledged my daughter’s observation.
The onset of autumn is a peculiar time in the South. Folks shop for pumpkins alongside watermelons and layer their clothing in such a way that they will stay warm in the morning and can find relief in the afternoon.
When we arrived, we signed in, found our spot, and then started lathering all exposed areas with SPF 70. As luck would have it, a friend from my mom group was there. I always enjoy chatting with her and made sure we set up our belongings beside her family. It did not take long for her to mention the leaves in the pool. There were quite a lot today.
The lifeguard overheard this conversation and hopped down to come explain. “I’m so sorry about the leaves,” she started, “I did clean it but they have been hard to keep out. They are dropping heavily.”
We thanked her and continued to enjoy our afternoon, but those leaves were still bothering me. This is only in part because they stick to your skin and feel like slime or a dead frog… Totally justifiable comparison, by the way. They pull two to three dead frogs out of that filter basket every time we are there. It’s kind of sad but mostly gross. If an unsuspecting victim passes by and feels something that icky brush across his leg after just having been witness to a frog funeral, they could easily mistake a soggy leaf for a departed amphibian. You see, I have been dreading these leaves. These particular leaves are the leaves of change. They have been waiting to drop for just over five years now.
They signify more than a new season; they signify the dawning of a new era for us. Elizabeth will start kindergarten soon. She has received her copy of Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come from Dolly Parton and everything. It is pretty official.
She could not be more excited. We have bought a new backpack and found a pair of unicorn Chucks that even I wish I could wear. We have the good pencils the teachers prefer and have been perfecting the art of opening a juice pouch all summer. She is totally ready… it is really just me who is not.
I am not ready for my five-year-old to leave me. I am not ready for her to walk through those doors and grow up. How are we already here? She was just a squishy bit of nothing a few weeks ago; so little you could close your fingers around her leg. Now she is on track to be much, MUCH taller than I and frequently uses words like “actually.”
As I watched her jump, splash, dive, and laugh the afternoon away, I became more nostalgic. She doesn’t fully realize what this change means. She doesn’t know that she is still very much a baby. She doesn’t know that kids can and will be bullies or that some grown-ups have cold hearts. She doesn’t understand about school shootings, racism, and hate. The only thing she knows is that she is excited. Who am I to thwart her enthusiasm? She is ready to make new friends. She is ready to explore art and music. She is ready to choose her own meals at the lunch line and giggle over inside jokes with her girlfriends at the table. She is ready to learn to read and write. She is ready to take on the world!
It’s not fair to push my fear over onto her. This is what we have been working toward. We rejoiced as she sat up for the first time. We celebrated all the milestones for we knew how much work it took her. She is growing every minute, and it’s our job to prepare her for the world. I worry but I let go. It’s what she needs from me the most.
Therefore, we will continue to rejoice with her as she succeeds in this new chapter of her life and be there to comfort her when she fails. We will encourage her to pick herself up, put her best face on, and try again. “Always move forward. Never go back.”
By now, the sun has begun to set behind the tops of the trees. She and her brother are still playing hard, but I can visually see they are wearing down. It’s time to gather our things and go home for dinner and baths.
I choose to embrace the now. I’m going to soak up my time with them and let the worry go. She is a fantastic human being that will set the world on fire one day but not before we snuggle on the couch and finish the Harry Potter series. For now, she is still my baby girl.
Today was a good day.